Eden Hazard, the Premier League’s top scorer this season, says he has a big decision to make.
The Belgian cast more doubt over his Chelsea future this week by saying he is torn over signing a new contract at Stamford Bridge and a potential move to Real Madrid.
Real have repeatedly been linked with Hazard and the saga shows no sign of ending just yet.
What is going on with the future of Hazard?
Hazard is under contract with Chelsea until June 30, 2020, in a deal signed in February 2015. Chelsea’s offer of an extension has long been on the table. But Hazard knows this will be his last big contract and is taking his time to consider his options. The 27-year-old, a father of three, will want what is best for him and his family and has spoken of his long-held desire to play for Real Madrid. Hazard said: “Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid.”
What Hazard has said
Ahead of May’s FA Cup final, which Chelsea won in Antonio Conte’s last match in charge, Hazard, who moved to London in July 2012, said: “I’m waiting for new players next season. I want good players because I want to win next season the Premier League.”
And after helping Belgium to third place at last summer’s World Cup, before Maurizio Sarri was appointed Conte’s replacement, Hazard hinted at wanting a change of scene. He said: “It might be time to discover something different. You know my preferred destination.”
Following Sunday’s match with Southampton, Hazard shared his daily quandary. He said: “I don’t want to lie today. Sometimes in my head, I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay.”
What is likely to happen next?
It is stick or twist time for Hazard, who has no agent. The power sits with the player: stay or go. He says he is not about to agitate for a move to the Spanish capital, like Diego Costa or Thibaut Courtois before him. He knows Chelsea would be forced to sell him next summer, or risk losing him for nothing the following year, if no contract extension has been agreed. But with Real Madrid his preferred destination, meaning there would just one suitor, negotiations over any transfer fee could be lengthy.
Where would Hazard fit in at Real?
This might be an unrequited love affair for Hazard as there is no confirmation from the Spanish giants that they want him. There are also questions over what state Real are in, after a floundering start under Julen Lopetegui in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era. There was summer talk of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe being their preferred ‘Galactico’ to build the team around; at 26 and 19, respectively, both Paris St Germain players are younger than Hazard. Would the Belgian be the focal point of the team?
Can Hazard fulfil his ambitions at Chelsea?
That depends if Hazard’s Real desire ends, as that is his biggest desire. On the pitch, Sarri has already revived Hazard, freeing the Belgian of defensive responsibilities which were required under Conte and Jose Mourinho before him. Chelsea have reaped the benefits so far. We have seen Hazard on form before, but he needs to produce consistently, season after season; not one season on, one season off. Hazard will want to be a Champions League winner. Can he do that at Stamford Bridge? Chelsea are not even in that competition this season, so the Blues need to keep making on-field strides this season.