Ahead of taking on Real Madrid, Enzo Fernandez talks about Europe’s big stage, his compatriot Hernan Crespo and why he chose ‘big club’ Chelsea…
It was just under 20 years ago that Hernan Crespo scored the opening goal in one of the most convincing Champions League wins ever by Chelsea.
The striker netted in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in a 4-0 victory over Lazio, a former club of Crespo. The performance and the result, which also featured a Frank Lampard goal, made Europe sit up and take notice of a new-look Blues.
Now, near the start of another fresh era at Chelsea, Enzo Fernandez has been taking on the Champions League challenge and having played away in another of Europe’s iconic stadiums last week, returns home for a momentous re-match later today. He fell under the wing of his fellow Argentinean Crespo earlier in his career, and he has revealed the big influence his former coach had.
‘We already know what Hernan was like as a player,’ begins Enzo, ‘he has proved it over the years, but as a person too he’s a top guy. He always tries to help, always gives advice. He’s spent many years as a player and he always has stories to tell and whenever I needed him, he was always there.
‘He has taught me a lot on the field because he was my coach at Defensa y Justicia. We won the Copa Sudamericana together and I always mention that he taught me so many things,’ continues the 22-year-old.
‘I had just come from River Plate after not playing in the first team and playing in the second team for a long time, and going to Defensa y Justicia was very good for my mind, to keep growing, to keep maturing and to gain experience there. It was very important for me.
‘Besides Hernan, his coaching staff was also very good, he always tried to help us and I have learned a lot from him, he has always advised me well – super football-gifted, he knows a lot about football.’
Enzo helped Benfica top their group in the first part of the season prior to his move to London, with wins home and away against Juventus, and he already has one significant success in the competition with Chelsea – our knocking out of Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16.
‘It’s an enormous accomplishment to play in the Champions League,’ he says. ‘I’ve always dreamed of playing in it. Everything’s happening so fast in my career. I’m truly enjoying playing in it and I’m happy to play with Chelsea here and experience it to the maximum.
‘We started out by losing in Germany, and we turned it around while playing at home with our support. Fans are really important, they supported us throughout it all. We knew and trusted in our game plan. We trusted in our team, in our mental strength. Adapting always takes time, meeting new players. I was among the 10 new players that came in.
‘It’s hard with different languages, so it’s difficult to connect with team-mates at the beginning. As time goes by, we start getting to know our team-mates better and it will get better with time. The new players and I are all striving to adapt as best as possible.
‘The staff is also here to help, so I’ll try to give my best to speed up this adjusting process.’
Enzo confirms the long-term project the club is creating was one of the factors in him deciding to move from Benfica to Chelsea midway through his first season playing in Europe.
‘I also always dreamed about playing in the Premier League,’ he adds, ‘and Chelsea had shown their interest in me since even before the World Cup. The fact that they were targeting me was crucial.
‘I came to a big club, one that has always fought for titles, and that has won two Champions Leagues in a very short period of time. Now that I’m here, I’ve realised how big this club really is.
‘This was an important factor when making this decision, apart from the fact that it’s in such a beautiful city like London. I thought it all through with my family. If it’s God’s will, everything will turn out fine, and I’ll strive to win anything and everything.’
As everyone knows, it will not be easy, but it is a quest for silverware that could take a big step forward with a historic display at the Bridge today.