Conte doubt on Hazard's club future

Eden Hazard celebrating after scoring in Chelsea's 4-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend. He will be looking to dictate terms in today's game against Everton.
Eden Hazard celebrating after scoring in Chelsea's 4-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend. He will be looking to dictate terms in today's game against Everton.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Potential offer from Real Madrid would make it difficult for Chelsea to retain Belgian forward

LONDON • Antonio Conte says that it may be impossible to keep Eden Hazard at Chelsea if Real Madrid come in with an offer for the forward.

The Belgian, who has three years left on his contract, has been one of the star performers for the Premier League leaders this season, but Conte says that he cannot guarantee that Hazard will not leave in the summer.

"I think that it's impossible for me to take this responsibility," the Chelsea manager said.

Asked if it would be possible to keep Hazard if a club like Real came in, Conte replied: "I don't think it's possible, no. But not only for Eden, but for every single player.

"I think Eden is very happy to stay with us and work with us. But the future? I haven't a crystal ball, no. I think everything is possible."

Hazard, who scored his 15th league goal in the midweek 4-2 victory over Southampton, will seek to maintain his outstanding form at Everton today, as the leaders attempt to stretch their advantage back to seven points before second-placed Tottenham Hotspur play Arsenal later in the day.

SEEKING THE BEST SOLUTION

Don't give the advantage to one team or the other. When you can see there are two or three teams very close in the fight, you have to find a solution. Then you can really see who is the best.

ANTONIO CONTE, who urged that Chelsea and Tottenham play simultaneously, to avoid giving either side an advantage.

Conte also called for Chelsea and Tottenham to play at the same time in the critical Premier League title run-in, to avoid giving either side an unfair advantage.

"Don't give the advantage to one team or the other," he said. "When you can see there are two or three teams very close in the fight, you have to find a solution. Then you can really see who is the best."

With no margin for error this weekend, Conte has told his players to combat the pressure by revelling in the experience of playing for such high stakes.

"We are ready and we have worked hard to arrive here to fight for the title," he said. "For this reason we want to reach this target with all our strengths."

The biggest threat to Chelsea today will come from their former striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been linked with a return to Stamford Bridge after scoring 25 goals in all competitions for Everton this term.

Reports claim Chelsea would have to pay £100 million (S$180.8 million) to re-sign the 23-year-old Belgian.

Asked if playing a potential suitor might unsettle Lukaku, Everton manager Ronald Koeman said: "I don't know. We will see. Normally not. The players always like to show the best of themselves."

Seventh-placed Everton could clinch a spot in the Europa League today, but Koeman is looking for a more dynamic display after last weekend's drab goal-less draw with West Ham United.

"Maybe we need to change our mentality a bit because I felt a bit less intensity in the game last week, maybe a bit less motivation," he said.

"It is always difficult if you have already the seventh position in the pocket and maybe they get a little bit more holiday or end-of-season feeling. That is what I don't like."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Conte doubt on Hazard's club future'. Print Edition | Subscribe