Chelsea left-back Marc Cucurella has conceded that he did not know who team-mate Enzo Fernandez was prior to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The 22-year-old Fernandez was a star performer for Argentina in the World Cup, helping his nation to a first winners medal at the event since they claimed glory in 1986.
He subsequently won the FIFA World Cup Young Player Award for his exploits.
“I liked to watch matches in which my friends were playing, so I was watching Argentina because of Alexis [Mac Allister]. I think I said, ‘I really like number 24, he’s very good!’ But I didn’t even know where he played! I had to go and search on my phone!” Cucurella told ESPN Sports Center.
“As I watched more games, I told my family and friends that I really liked him a lot. And then he came to Chelsea! I told Enzo that I had liked him at the World Cup. He’s a good guy, I’m waiting for him to cook me a BBQ.
“He is very young, but he is very talented with the ball and he is intelligent. He’s still adapting but he’s already played some good games. We have [signed] a great midfielder.”
Naturally, Fernandez’s exploits in Qatar led to a lot of interest in his services. He had only joined Portugal based outfit Benfica in the summer of 2022 from Argentine outfit River Plate but Chelsea were quick swoop for him, paying £106.8m for his services in January.
Some viewed the figure with scepticism. After all, the winners of the best young player at the World Cup’s do not live up to expectations. American Landon Donovan famously won the award during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan and while he is regarded as a Major League Soccer Legend, he never quite achieved success in Europe, though he did show glimpses of quality during two loan spells with Everton in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Despite his exploits in Qatar, the central midfielder is also still a relatively raw product. He made less than 50 league appearances for River Plate and less than 20 for Benfica prior to his move to Stamford Bridge.
On the other hand, some who back the decision to sign him will point to the fact that he may well be a maestro who may not need to develop in the same way that most other players do. While he may still have flaws in his game, this could also be ironed out in time and he could prove to be a good long-term investment. Fernandez has the ingredients to become one of the best midfielders in the world.