LONDON • Real Madrid's public pursuit of Eden Hazard continued on Tuesday with the Spanish football club's former president, Ramon Calderon, suggesting that they would be prepared to pay Chelsea a world-record £100 million (S$173.62 million) transfer fee for the Belgium forward.
Chelsea are adamant that Hazard will not be sold this summer and are willing to open talks about extending his contract, which has more than three years left.
But the Premier League leaders are braced for a charm offensive and propaganda campaign from the Bernabeu in what they believe is a deliberate attempt to unsettle him.
There were reports in Spain this week that Chelsea are willing to sell Hazard - and one even claiming that the London club had reached a gentleman's agreement with the player that he can leave for Real - which are disputed privately at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea's suspicion of a misinformation campaign from Real increased on Tuesday when Calderon gave an insight into his former club's likely transfer tactics, although he conceded that Hazard would have to ask for a move to force any deal through.
"Chelsea will ask for a lot of money. I think that's what the situation will be at the end of the season," he said. "Chelsea know quite well how much has been paid in the market over the last few years, with (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Gareth) Bale and (Paul) Pogba - £100 million is now the bar... so I think that's how much a club like Chelsea would be asking for, but the economy at Real Madrid is healthy - I don't think that would be a problem for them.
"Chelsea aren't a selling club, so it wouldn't be easy, but it would depend on the wishes of the player. If he wants to leave... that will be the moment they start negotiating."
Ray Wilkins, the former Chelsea coach, insisted that the club would not consider an offer for a player he deemed to be irreplaceable.
"For Chelsea to lose Hazard, who is one of the five best players on the planet, they would have to replace this guy, and he is irreplaceable at this moment in time," he said.
"He's a wonderfully gifted footballer and why would Chelsea want to give him up? Chelsea wish to be the best club on the planet and they're heading in the right direction. What they've done over the past 10 to 12 years has been nothing short of phenomenal, so if you want to be the best why sell the best? They'll never get there if they sell Eden Hazard, who has been absolutely brilliant.
"If they sell him I'll give up my season ticket. He's that important."
Chelsea, on the other hand, have made Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez their main summer transfer target, according to The Guardian.
The British newspaper reported that manager Antonio Conte is in talks with Chelsea over a new contract and, as part of that, summer transfers have been discussed.
The Italian has submitted to the club's recruitment team a list of players he would like to sign, with Sanchez and a left-sided defender among the priorities.
Sanchez, 28, looks poised to leave Arsenal after three years at the club. The Chile forward has become increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress at the Emirates and would welcome a new challenge.
His contract has 15 months to run and Chelsea are aware a transfer will be difficult to conclude because Arsenal would prefer not to sell him to a domestic rival.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON