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Hazard next on Sarri's list

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri (above) knows that it is crucial to tie star forward Eden Hazard down at Stamford Bridge, with the club under threat of a transfer ban and therefore unable to sign a replacement in case he leaves.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri (above) knows that it is crucial to tie star forward Eden Hazard down at Stamford Bridge, with the club under threat of a transfer ban and therefore unable to sign a replacement in case he leaves.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sarri hopes forward extends Blues stay after 'important' Kante inks new five-year contract

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has welcomed the "important news" that N'Golo Kante has signed a new five-year contract and with Chelsea under threat of a transfer embargo as Fifa investigates the recruitment of minors from abroad, is now hopeful Eden Hazard follows suit.

The midfield enforcer, secured from Leicester in 2016 and an ever-present in the Premier League under the Italian to date, has signed a deal through to 2023 worth around £290,000 a week (S$512,400).

Chelsea have been hoping to tie Hazard down to similar terms for some time, though no agreement has been reached with the Belgian.

The forward, whose deal ends in 2020, indicated over the summer that he might be ready to leave after six years at Stamford Bridge.

When asked about an update on talks with Hazard, who is set to play a critical role against Tottenham today in the league, Sarri said: " He's very well.

Fortunately, he played the last match with the national team on Sunday, so he came back here on Tuesday. For us, that's very important. I don't know the evolution of the new contract, but we can do (it). I hope so."

Kante, a two-time league winner and a key member of France's World Cup-winning campaign in the summer, told reporters that part of the reason he penned a new deal was down to his improvement as a player in his short time under Sarri's stewardship this season.

MIDFIELD GENERAL

He's very important for us in the defensive phase, but he is improving in the offensive movements. Now he has to improve in the last 25m. He can score more.

MAURIZIO SARRI, Chelsea manager, on the qualities N'Golo Kante brings to the team.

The Chelsea manager also hailed the Frenchman's qualities.

"N'Golo, for us, is not just an important player," said Sarri. "He's a 'determining' player for us. So I'm really happy with the new contract. Clearly very pleased for him.

"I know that David Luiz said something about him, that he never wants to pay the bill in the restaurant (owned by teammates Luiz and Willian). So he has a flaw like everybody!

"But he is a really professional player, on the pitch and off the pitch. He's very important for us in the defensive phase, but he is improving in the offensive movements. Now he has to improve in the last 25m. He can score more."

 
 
 

Blues director Marina Granovskaia also lauded the 27-year-old as a "special player", saying: "He has astounded everybody with his tireless and unselfish displays. Off the pitch, he remains a dedicated professional and a humble human."

And Sarri will be certain to instruct Kante to keep a tight leash on midfielders Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, with their runs from deep integral to the way Spurs play.

"They play very good football. They are very dangerous on set pieces, on short counter-attacks. They are technical and from a physical point of view they are a strong team," he said of Tottenham at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

The 59-year-old, who confirmed Mateo Kovacic would likely be fit, also warned his side they could not afford a slow start at Wembley, adding: "Our (previous) opponents were more aggressive, determined than us. We have to approach the match in a different way."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Hazard next on Sarri's list'. Print Edition | Subscribe