If Enzo Fernandez is worth £107m, how much will Jude Bellingham cost this summer?
On Wednesday night at Signal Iduna Park, the world’s most expensive midfielder will take on the man who will surely take over that mantle in the summer.
Enzo Fernandez’s £107 million ($131m) move from Benfica to Chelsea was the story of the January transfer window, but one of the biggest beneficiaries of it, surely, will be Borussia Dortmund, as they prepare to wave goodbye to Jude Bellingham in a few months’ time.
After all, if a player who has done well for half a season in Europe can command such a fee, then what will one who has spent the last three campaigns establishing himself as one of the world’s best go for?
Bellingham, who doesn’t turn 20 until June, will have no shortage of suitors this summer. Liverpool are making a huge push to sign him, while Real Madrid and Manchester City both believe they have a big chance. Manchester United, who could soon be under new ownership, cannot be ruled out, and would it really be that surprising if Chelsea entered the race, given their spending under Todd Boehly so far?
Whoever is lucky enough to be chosen, however, knows they will have to pay through the nose. Dortmund were said to value Bellingham at £100m ($122m) last year, but that was before his exceptional performances for England at the World Cup. It was also before Fernandez’s move had sent shockwaves through the transfer market.
The rise of the Argentine World Cup winner has been quite remarkable. Less than two years ago, he was on loan at Defensa y Justicia in his homeland, and only last June he was moving to Benfica in a deal worth around £9m ($11m).
He played only 29 games for the Portuguese giants, but his performances for Argentina in Qatar meant Chelsea were prepared to push the button on him in January. Other clubs, Liverpool included, had been put off by Benfica’s talk of an initial £60m ($73m) valuation, but Boehly’s Blues were prepared to go far higher, making the 21-year-old the final signing of a quite incredible window.
“The quality they brought in is quite immense,” Glenn Hoddle, who managed Chelsea between 1993 and 1996, tells GOAL. “They probably had to pay over the odds, but that’s their decision.
“It’s a conundrum for Graham Potter, because he’s almost been given a brand new team overnight. He’s been given these quality players, and the question now is how he moulds them all into a team.”
Fernandez, at least, looks like he will slot straight in. He has already caught the eye, impressing on his debut against Fulham and setting up a goal for Joao Felix in Saturday’s draw at West Ham, although Hoddle believes there are still questions to be answered, tactically.
“He’s gone straight in, but Potter doesn’t know him as a character and as a player,” he says. “Looking at Enzo, he looks better as a No.8 than a holding player, so who will play the holding role? [N'Golo] Kante has not been fit, so they need to find a balance there.”
Joe Cole, the former Chelsea and England star, agrees. “I picked Enzo out before the World Cup as a potential star, so I’m going to blow my own trumpet there!” he says. “I think him and [Mykhailo] Mudryk are two fantastic signings - Mudryk reminds me a bit of Arjen Robben - but they’ll need time. They’re coming from Portugal and Ukraine, so you don’t want to be relying on them straight away.
"You still need to look to [Kai] Havertz, [Mason] Mount, [Raheem] Sterling, players who have been doing it in the Premier League for years. They’ll need to deliver.”
Where there is no doubt, is around Bellingham. The teenager has been one of the star’s of this season’s Champions League, and will be looking to end Chelsea’s hopes when their last-16 clash gets underway on Wednesday night.
“He’s already one of the best players in world football, in my opinion,” says Cole. "It’s just great that he’s English. To play how he played at the World Cup, at his age, was stunning.
“I think he’s already at the top, and I think his next move should be England. I’d love to see him at Chelsea, but I know Liverpool seem to be into him big. I think Manchester United will be sniffing, even Arsenal will fancy they can come into the race if they can win the Premier League. But he’s a top-drawer player.”
Hoddle, meanwhile, has doubts as to whether a return to England will be Bellingham’s next choice.
“I’d love to see him in the Premier League, we all would,” he says, “but I have a feeling that Real Madrid is the place. I think he’s the kind of kid who would say ‘I’d love a bit of that’, and if Real Madrid come calling, it’s very tough to turn down.
“If he does come to the Premier League, I think it’ll be to the club that makes him feel so, so comfortable, so much that they want him. Not money, more a club that has a project and makes it clear that he’s going to be a massive part of it, and makes him feel comfortable.
“A few years back, Liverpool would have been No.1, but at the moment they’re down the pecking order a bit. They have to make him feel that he’ll be the next Steven Gerrard for the club, because if they don’t, they’ll miss out. Me personally, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go to Real Madrid.”
Wherever Bellingham does end up, one thing is guaranteed; Dortmund will be asking for far more than £100m (€113m/$122m) for their crown jewel this summer.
Chelsea and Fernandez have seen to that.
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