Hazard's Chelsea future in doubt, Real move mooted

LONDON • Eden Hazard's future at Chelsea seems to be in severe doubt after the forward admitted that he has come to a decision about his next step, with a move to Real Madrid thought to be his preference.

"I know what I am going to do. I have made a decision," Hazard told French radio station RMC, although he did not elaborate.

The interview was recorded two months ago as part of a documentary about his career, but it was only released earlier this week and may colour the context of the guessing games that have continued to follow his every move.

Uncertainty over the 28-year-old's plans has been an unwelcome undercurrent to Chelsea's season.

Hazard has admitted to being torn between staying at Stamford Bridge and the "dream" switch to Real, a club he referred to in October as "the best in the world".

While Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has pressed the Belgium international to make up his mind, saying in December it was "time to decide" the issue, he has also accepted his star player could leave if that was his wish.

"If he wants to go, he has to go," the Italian said last week.

The situation is particularly concerning given that Hazard's contract expires in June 2020 and he is yet to entertain new terms.

If the European champions and Hazard are both open to a deal, then Chelsea are unlikely to stand in his way, although it could take a nine-figure bid to seal his exit.

According to the Evening Standard, the Blues will demand more than £100 million (S$175.3 million) before sanctioning his departure, although Real could include Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who is on loan at Stamford Bridge, to sweeten the deal.

Should the blockbuster move take place in the summer, Chelsea will need a big-name replacement, but that player is unlikely to be Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

Despite rumours of a return to English football circling the Brazil forward, who has struggled to nail down a starting place in Spain since moving from Liverpool for £142 million last January, Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has put the speculation to bed.

He said: "Are we going to consider the sale of Coutinho? No. It's not (possible), he is very young (26) and we expect a lot from him.

"He plays differently, he knows how we play, we do not want to sell."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'Hazard's Chelsea future in doubt, Real move mooted'. Print Edition | Subscribe