Hard to keep Hazard: Sarri

Eden Hazard capping a fine solo run to score Chelsea's opener against West Ham at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian added another to lead the Blues to a 2-0 win and third place in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard capping a fine solo run to score Chelsea's opener against West Ham at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian added another to lead the Blues to a 2-0 win and third place in the Premier League.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Blues boss hails Belgian's value in West Ham win, hints at summer exit of prized asset

LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has accepted it will be hard to deny Eden Hazard a move to Real Madrid this summer, even if a reported £100 million (S$176.7 million) move is "too cheap" for the Belgium captain.

Hazard, whose deal will have just one year to run in the summer, showed why he will be one of the most in-demand players when the transfer window opens on July 1, scoring a fine brace as Sarri's men beat West Ham 2-0 on Monday to move up to third in the Premier League.

The Blues may be forced to cash in on their prized asset as he has so far refused to extend his contract and the club are unlikely to contemplate the risk of losing their top scorer on a free transfer next year.

While Sarri believes the £100 million fee - which will reportedly be enough to secure his services - being bandied about is "too cheap in this market", he also admitted that the decision to keep or move Hazard on is out of his hands.

The Italian said post-game: "We have seen in the last few windows every price.

"I'm sure the club don't want to sell him, but of course, we all have to respect his decision.

"He is in the last season of contract, if he wants to have another experience, we have to respect it. We will try in any way to convince him, but it is not easy."

The prospect of losing the forward is even more daunting for Chelsea as they are banned from signing new players due to a one-year transfer ban imposed by Fifa, and Sarri conceded the team would not be able to cope with his exit as "it is impossible to find another Hazard".

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  • Premier League goals (16 goals, 12 assists) Eden Hazard has been involved in, more than any other player this season.

Asked if Chelsea could afford to lose him, he added: "From the technical point of view no, not at the moment. At the moment, there is not another Hazard, because the level is too high."

The 28-year-old Belgian is putting all transfer talk to one side, insisting he is "focusing on Chelsea until the end of the season".

He said: "I want to finish in the (league's) top four and do well in the Europa League. We still have a lot to do and then we will see."

With trips to Liverpool and Manchester United to come in Chelsea's last five league games, much will depend on Hazard with Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain showing little sign of hitting form.

The 31-year-old, on loan from Juventus, stated his desire before kick-off to make his move permanent should Chelsea successfully appeal their transfer freeze.

But he had another night to forget in front of goal, making it just three goals, against already relegated Fulham and Huddersfield, since joining in January.

His form makes Hazard indispensable to Sarri, who admitted that when his star player is at his irrepressible best, Chelsea "can win against every team".

Separately, Danny Drinkwater was yesterday charged with drink driving after being involved in an accident near Manchester.

The Chelsea midfielder, who has not played this season except for a substitute appearance in the Community Shield, was reportedly with two female companions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'Hard to keep Hazard: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe