World Cup star Fernandez starts for Benfica amid Chelsea speculation

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Enzo Fernandez was named in Benfica’s starting XI to face Braga despite the mounting speculation that he will join Chelsea in January.

Fernandez was a breakout star at the World Cup, playing in all seven of Argentina’s matches as they went on to claim the title in Qatar.

The 21-year-old, who joined Benfica from River Plate last year, was rewarded for his efforts by being named as the Young Player of the Tournament.

His performances have piqued the interest of some of Europe’s elite sides, however, and Chelsea are reportedly frontrunners.

Indeed, reports on Friday claimed Fernandez had already agreed to join the Premier League side, with the ball now in Benfica’s court as to whether they accept a bid.

However, the speculation did not stop Benfica coach Roger Schmidt calling on the midfielder to start against Braga in Benfica’s first league game back after the World Cup.

When asked about Fernandez at his pre-match press conference on Thursday, Schmidt acknowledged it was natural for a player to have their head turned by huge offers.

“These young players sometimes have opportunities,” he said. “It’s not just Enzo, it’s all the players.

“It’s part of the football business. If they have opportunities, they have to make decisions. I can give them advice and recommendations.

“But I always respected the players’ decisions, because they only have one career.”

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