Chelsea’s record signing Enzo Fernandez has been handed his full debut by Graham Potter to face Fulham on Friday, just three days after his record-breaking £107million transfer from Benfica. The Argentinian midfielder has been brought straight into the starting XI as the Blues parade their new star in front of the home faithful at Stamford Bridge.
The 22-year-old arrived on deadline day after the Blues wrapped up his signing with less than a hour before the 11pm deadline on Tuesday and he was only unveiled as a Chelsea player on Wednesday.
Fernandez was also not spotted by cameras as the team trained at their Cobham training base ahead of the game.
But Potter is keen to blood his new central midfielder as soon as possible, especially after selling Jorginho to Arsenal earlier this week. With midfield numbers short due to injuries to Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante, the Chelsea boss has opted to hand Fernandez his highly-anticipated debut.
Potter warned Fernandez will need time to acclimatise himself to the Premier League but insisted he is ready to start games after helping Argentina win the World Cup.
“He’s still young, coming to this country you have to adapt, you have adapt to the club, so it doesn’t matter what the fee is, that still has to happen, but we will help him with that,’ Potter said on Thursday.
“And his personality is one that makes you think you have no concerns with him. He’s a fighter. He understands how fortunate he is. He fights for the team, he’s not afraid, he’s got courage, he’s open-minded, he wants to improve.
“If you can play in the six for Argentina, and play in the big games he has, at his age, and with the quality he has shown, it’s not straightforward.”
There is also a full debut for £88m signing Mykhaylo Mudryk, who impressed in his first outing against Liverpool having come off the bench. And Hakim Ziyech, who was left stranded by the club in Paris after his deadline-day loan switch to PSG fell through, is a surprise starter in the three-man attack.
But on the same day that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was brutally omitted from the club’s Champions League squad to make room for Fernandez and their other new signings, the Gabonese was also left out of the 20-man squad for the Premier League fixture.
The 33-year-old appears to be out of favour under Potter and was linked with a move away from west London in the January transfer window, but a move did not materialise before the deadline.
Even with Armando Broja out injured, Potter has deemed other squad members to be more valuable for his squad after leaving Aubameyang out of his squad, picking January signing David Datro Fofana instead.
Reece James is back in the side to make his first appearance since injuring his knee which forced him to miss the World Cup.
Ben Chilwell has made the squad too, but the left-back will take his place on the bench for tonight’s game as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Chelsea XI to face Fulham: Kepa; James, Silva, Badiashile, Cucurella; Gallagher, Fernandez, Mount; Ziyech, Havertz, Mudryk.
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