It seems like it’s finally happening – the Eden Hazard to Real Madrid transfer saga may be nearing its end point as various reports today suggest Chelsea are at long last going to lose their star player this summer.
The Daily Mirror claim Real are confident of signing Hazard for around £100million, while the player himself has been quoted by RMC (translated by the Mail) as saying he’s made a decision on his future.
It’s since emerged that these quotes were made around two months ago, but if his decision was to sign a new contract, he’s had plenty of time to do it, so it’s safe to assume he now expects to be a Madrid player next season.
This is new territory for Chelsea, but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom for the club. In fact it may be an opportunity for just the fresh start the Blues need.
Maurizio Sarri recently said this group of Chelsea players is hard to motivate, as quoted here by the Guardian. While Hazard is far from the only problem in this squad, it’s easy to see why he might not be a manager’s dream.
Take these quotes back in October, again from the Guardian: ‘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. I was dreaming about this club. We will see.’
Perhaps it’s because we’re now past a pretty unique era at Stamford Bridge in which you imagine the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba would have had a quiet but firm word with Hazard about publicly courting other clubs, but how have the club allowed such a big-name player to repeatedly undermine them on this, creating both distracting headlines and potentially weakening his current employers’ negotiating position in any transfer deal?
The Belgium international is not bigger than Chelsea – many hardcore Blues are well aware, watching him week in, week out, that he is not the player is he hyped up to be by so many pundits and neutrals. He tends to give one or two world class performances before two or three quiet games. His goal return for someone so often compared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is distinctly unimpressive. A supremely talented and entertaining player yes, but a Ballon d’Or winner any time soon? No. So good you’d turn down £100m and keep him at the club for another year against his will? Not really. A leader? Definitely not.
There is undoubtedly a culture at Chelsea of players giving up on their manager, and in fairness to Hazard and co., this pre-dates this current group and applies just as much to the days of Terry and Lampard. Is it any wonder Hazard or others might feel they can get away with putting themselves in the shop window when a more attractive proposal comes along? If they don’t like this current manager they can simply try to walk away, or effectively threaten the club with a decision with actions like this.
Sarri is not perfect by any means, but no manager is. The Italian tactician is surely just about up there with his predecessor Antonio Conte as one of the top ten in the world, and while he lacks his fellow countryman’s trophy record, his sides play better football. It’s hard to find a manager who can do both, but if the former clearly wasn’t enough to keep Conte in a job, then what exactly do Chelsea want?
How about, for a change, Chelsea show a distracted and disloyal Hazard the door, and keep the faith with Sarri despite an unconvincing first season? How about giving the former Napoli boss a decent transfer budget, bring in five or six new young-ish players in the Christian Pulisic mould, and make it clear he’s got three or four years at least to build something. If Chelsea can bring in a new generation, recruited and developed by a manager they know is not going anywhere, maybe the club can avoid a similar fiasco to this one in a few years’ time.