Act now on Hazard, Sarri tells Chelsea bosses

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has made plain his frustration over the contractual stand-off between Eden Hazard and Chelsea by telling the club's hierarchy it is "time to decide" on the winger's future for the good of the club.

The Belgian's deal expires in June 2020 and, despite Chelsea's best efforts since the summer of last year, he has decided against an extension. He has also made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid.

The Blues have offered him more than £300,000 (S$520,500) a week. It is unclear what more they could have done but Sarri feels the situation has gone on for too long.

"It's time to decide," the Chelsea manager said. "We have to solve this problem if we want to programme the future."

The Italian has never made his feelings on the issue so clear and his remarks may sit uncomfortably with the club's directors, who were at odds with former manager Antonio Conte over transfer policy.

"Yes, I am a bit surprised (it has gone on this long) but I don't know the past so I can't say anything," the 59-year-old added.

"I am not the president, I am not in charge of the market. I want to speak to him (Hazard) only about the position on the pitch."

Sarri, who will be without Spanish forward Pedro (hamstring injury) for today's Premier League match at Crystal Palace, is also keen to keep Hazard playing as a "false nine" in the absence of the injured Alvaro Morata.

Hazard has said he prefers to play on the wing but Sarri said the impact the Belgian has made with the switch supports his decision.

"He played four matches as false No. 9, scored three goals and had two assists," the manager said.

Hazard boasts a hand in 19 Premier League goals this season, more than any other player, and was again on the scoresheet with a brace in Chelsea's 2-1 win over Watford on Boxing Day.

Speaking ahead of today's game, Palace manager Roy Hodgson said it is "very difficult" to stop the forward when he is at his best.

"He has got all the skills that make him hard to contain," said the 71-year-old, whose side have already beaten champions Manchester City and drawn with Manchester United and Arsenal this season.

"He knows when to release the ball and when to hold it, and when to go for the big prize."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 30, 2018, with the headline 'Act now on Hazard, Sarri tells Chelsea bosses'. Print Edition | Subscribe