Having signed for Benfica in July, a team yet to lose a competitive match this season, Enzo Fernandez has already become the midfielder of the month in European football.
Manchester United are reported to have been looking for Enzo this season in Portugal after spotting him in Argentina.
United’s midfield of Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen and Casemiro have been largely flawless this season. Fred has even shown his worth as a youth player, bringing intensity and impotence to a second half. Scott McTominay, who started this campaign as part of the top 11, can finally see himself as a role player: someone who adds physicality and an injection of desire when needed. Donny van de Beek has been mostly injured since his Ajax ally Erik ten Hag took over at Old Trafford. Zidane Iqbal impressed in pre-season and has since been training with the first team and included in matchday squads. Hannibal Mejbri has garnered applause from the start of his loan spell with Birmingham City.
So why would United enter the market for another midfielder?
The simple answer: Enzo Fernandez is not a player United should ignore.
More complex answer: young, sky-high potential, diverse skill set, Enzo could follow the old Eriksen and Casemiro for years to come with the prospect of him becoming a well-rounded, Premier League-quality midfielder suitable for Ten Hag. Frenkie de Jong and Jude Bellingham seem almost impossible to sign; Fernández would not only be a worthy alternative, but he may be the best candidate for a multitude of reasons.
Enzo has become one of the most complete and infallible midfielders in Europe since his recent arrival. With 13 appearances as a central midfielder, 6 as a defensive midfielder and 3 as an attacking midfielder, it is clear that Roger Schmidt is enjoying the dynamism of his new Argentine star.
The 21-year-old highlighted his main attributes when signing for Benfica: “I have good vision, passing and recovering the ball and I think that’s what I can contribute to the team”.
And the complete central midfielder has certainly backed him up ever since.
As for his vision, Enzo has shown it to a great extent when joining the attack. He is averaging 4.72 shot creation actions per 90 minutes, which ranks him in the top 94th percentile among his fellow midfielders, according to FB Ref.
His instinctive and intelligent vision has also been displayed. Enzo has an average of 0.48 goal creation actions every 90 minutes (97th percentile). This would suggest that the Argentine is thriving when he is deployed as a deep-lying playmaker.
The eye test can also attest to this. Enzo is often seen clipping the ball around the corner towards the final third with a rather Eriksen- or Fernandes-esque poise. With so many deep passes in the air, the Argentine has an expected assist (xAG) of 0.48, which means, all in all, that Benfica’s forwards should improve their finishing, as he has only added four assists in so far. It goes to season in 21 games.
This clinical, assertive, confident step is a skill you mentioned. And it’s a skill that is undoubtedly of elite quality. Enzo has mastered the art of having a varied passing arsenal.
Whether it’s shooting the ball across the floor (1.73 changes per game: 99th percentile), dipping it in the final third (12.01 progressive passes to the final third: 99th percentile), or playing it sharp until the end. per teammate (35.56 short passes per ninety: 99th percentile), Enzo pushes himself almost perfectly. His pass completion rate (of all types of passes) stands at a remarkable 87.1%, putting him once again in the 99th percentile among midfielders in Europe’s top divisions.
And yes, he was again very accurate in his suggestion that he would help win the ball back for the team.
Enzo averages 7.23 fumble recoveries per game, 2.33 tackles and 0.96 interceptions. These exemplary defensive stats indicate that he is a player with an excellent read of the game and a great ability to win back possession.
In fact, Benfica have only conceded five goals in the domestic league and six goals in a Champions League group that included Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Enzo’s midfield dynamism and his willingness to work hard defensively for his team is a clear basis for the opposition’s lack of goals.
What marks Enzo out as one of the best candidates to emulate the successes of top sixes is his willingness to take the ball. He loves to have the ball at his feet.
Making a determined effort to be available to his teammates in midfield, Enzo averages 106.79 touches per game and receives the ball 86.53 times. Both place him, once again, in the 99th percentile.
What can be gleaned from these two metrics is that the midfielder loves to be an option – receiving the ball, maneuvering it intelligently and passing it forward quickly. This is a sign that, under the tutelage of Casemiro and Eriksen, Enzo could adapt to a supreme midfielder in the Premier League. Furthermore, he announced his supreme technical qualities in the style of Eriksen for Benfica in his first appearance. Against Midtjylland in a Champions League qualifier, Enzo volleyed the ball into the net from a corner in strikingly similar fashion to Paul Scholes’ famous goal against Aston Villa. You will want to look for it.
Enzo has even shown his abilities as a youngster in Argentina. On loan from parent club River Plate to Defensa y Justicia, the 19-year-old Enzo guided his team to the 2020 COPA Sudamericana (the Latin American equivalent of the Europa League) and was included in the tournament’s best eleven for his performances. in the ten games.
Who else won the COPA Sudamericana at 19? Casemiro. The São Paulo star then similarly moved to Europe and was soon developing in the Primeira Liga with Porto. After this period, he became a permanent member of Real Madrid for almost a decade. There is a clear opportunity for Enzo to follow one of the best number sixes even further to continue his development towards elite status in Europe.
Another thing you might recognize is the Defense and Justice team. Lisandro Martinez, perhaps United’s Player of the Season so far, was also loaned out to the Buenos Aires club. Similar to his compatriot, Enzo also shows signs of the Ten Hag coined term ‘Grinta’. He has collected six yellow cards this season. Although not a traditional quality to admire, it’s indisputable that Stretford End lights up when a player shows excess drive, especially if it’s profitable for the team.
Although Transfermarkt regards Enzo as a player worth €35m in the current climate, Benfica will no doubt expect more. A host of clubs can be expected to seek the midfielder next summer, including the likes of Liverpool, and his contract does not expire until June 2027.
That said, Enzo’s agency, DE 9 Fútbol, does not have any other players on the books worth more than €4m. Therefore, there could be a push from the player’s representatives at Benfica to capitalize on a young player who is already the best midfielder in Portugal. And United have to get in the running.
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