Enzo Fernandez has a message for Chelsea’s fans and even though he had to deliver it through a translator, it came across loud and clear.
“Trust the players, trust the backroom staff, trust the manager,” he said. “Never forget that we are representing you, that we are trying to win games, starting on Sunday. Then we can start to turn things around.”
Having won the World Cup with Argentina and become the most expensive player in British football history after Chelsea signed him from Benfica for just over £106million, Fernandez has landed at Stamford Bridge in the eye of a storm.
Despite some impressive personal performances, Fernandez is still yet to experience victory with Chelsea and, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, head coach Graham Potter is under fire from fans who booed the team off after last Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.
“I would encourage the fans to be patient,” said Fernandez, who has started English lessons but communicated through a translator in Spanish. “We have got a lot of new faces here and it is a restructuring of the club and the playing staff. Trust us.”
The assured way in which Fernandez, who only turned 22 this year, holds himself is striking and he was wholly believable when he insisted his enormous price tag will not weigh heavily. As one Chelsea insider put it: “The kid’s got spunk.”
“The amount of money that is paid has nothing to do with me, it’s something that I take really naturally,” said Fernandez. “It’s part of football and my job is to go out on the field and give my best at all times. I am conscious of the faith they [Chelsea] have shown in me and I want to repay that.”
Describing his World Cup success with Argentina as “a gift from God”, Fernandez was asked by the translator to clear up whether or not he meant Lionel Messi or whether or not there is a difference. The midfielder joked: “No, maybe not.”
He was prepared for plenty of questions about Messi, as any Argentine footballer must be, and highlighted a trait in his hero and his international team-mates that he hopes to display at Chelsea.
“What can I take from that time with him?” repeated Fernandez. “Energy, from that squad, from that dressing room and from all my Argentinian team-mates because it was a special dressing room, you can imagine it was a lively dressing room.
“Energy, positivity, real desire and a real will to win, those are the ideas that were really prevalent in the Argentinian dressing room, but also keeping humble, that thing about Messi keeping humble.
“I know I’m still young and I need to keep learning, but at some point in the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe at some point in the future, I want to really demonstrate that I’m a leader both in the group off the field but on the field as well.”
Fernandez rejected the suggestion that winning the World Cup prompted the need for an immediate new challenge and revealed that Chelsea’s interest pre-dated the tournament while explaining why he was prepared to sign an eight-and-a-half-year contract that takes him to the age of 30.
“Chelsea were the team that went all out to sign me,” said Fernandez. “They showed interest in me via my agent in the period leading up to the World Cup. So even before everything that happened at the World Cup, Chelsea set their stall out and made an approach.
“I was very happy to have the confidence of a club like Chelsea. I know it’s a club that traditionally have been fighting on all fronts to win cups, always involved in the final stages of the Champions League and a club with a winning mentality. The project and the plans in place here really excited me. Now it’s a case of being here, wanting to take Chelsea as far as they want to go, me along with all my team-mates.
“All that celebration and having the high of winning the World Cup, it is not a case of: I need a new challenge now after that high. I think it is just a case of changing the chip in your head. That is all you are doing.
“You never lose that professionalism, that desire, that strength to compete, that desire to win in all competitions. I have always considered myself to be really, really professional and I don’t think my attitude has changed. However fantastic it was to win the World Cup, you still have those ideals of doing your best, helping your team-mates and trying to compete with everything you have got.”
The difficulty of the Premier League has not come as a shock to Fernandez, who used to wake early at his childhood home in the San Martin suburb of Buenos Aires to watch English football with his father while sipping cups of Mate, the South American herbal tea.
“I remember exactly the times,” said Fernandez. “Sunday mornings we used to tune in for the Premier League. Four hours difference in the winter, three hours in the summer. It would be me and my dad in bed with a Mate and we’d watch teams like Chelsea, teams like Manchester United and the Argentinian players, Kun Aguero and Carlos Tevez.”
Returning to the subject of why he and Chelsea’s other January signings have not been able to immediately change the course of the club’s season, Fernandez pointed out that it will take some time for relationships to be formed and for an understanding to be established.
But there is one player Fernandez has instantly hit it off with and hopes will become a Chelsea team-mate of his past the end of the season. Asked about on-loan Joao Felix, he said: “There has been a good connection.
“He called me straight away when I got here to ask if he could be of any help. When you get on with someone off the field it helps on the field to have that special connection and relationship on the field too.
“He’s a great player, isn’t he? A fantastic player. He’s got lots of ability and loads of qualities. He’s a key player for us, an important player and he’s on loan. Let’s hope that Chelsea can do all they can to keep hold of him come June, that would be great.”