To sell or not, a big question for Chelsea

Hazard
Hazard celebrates after scoring (Photo Credit: SkySports)

One player whose value increased at the 2018 FIFA World Cup was Chelsea’s Eden Hazard; and one manager who showed his worth last season was former Napoli gaffer, Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri was unveiled at Stamford Bridge last week after they let Antonio Conte go; but Hazard is pining for a move to Real Madrid.

After a dismal finish to the season – Chelsea ended in fifth place and lost out of the UEFA Champions League but won the FA Cup. Hazard told journalists his decision to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge would hinge on the quality of signings Chelsea make in the transfer window. Chelsea have since offered the Belgian a £300,000-a-week deal to stay till 2023, but he is taking his time.

“That’s why I’m taking my time. It is something big, so I will need to think of a lot of things. But one thing is for sure, I’m happy here.

“I’m waiting for new players next season [he could have added new manager]. You know. We’ll see. I want good players because I want to win next season the Premier League. Yeah, a lot of things, then we will see.”

What then is the best deal for both Chelsea and Belgium’s captain and what would be the appropriate strategy for a win-win situation?

This move is not about money; it is more about ambition and winning the biggest prizes in football – both team-wise and individually. Barcelona and Real Madrid will always be a lure for any player, and Hazard believes he is one of the best in the world.

The last 10 Player of the year awardees have come from these two clubs, so there is definitely a catch to playing for either of them. But can Chelsea afford to lose Hazard? Yes. Can Hazard shine at Real Madrid or Barcelona? Yes!

So they can do the deal. The flip side is, if Chelsea sells, what should they expect to gain? That answer will be answered with the philosophy of their new manager in mind. Both Pep Guardiola and former AC Milan tactician, Arrigo Sacchi, have commended Sarri’s work for whom ‘Sarriball’ was coined for his distinct playing philosophy.

Hazard’s most definitive strength is the ability to hold on to the ball and dribble in tight spaces; while Sarri – looking at his Napoli side from the last Serie A season wants his players to move the ball quickly in short triangular passes from defence into attack. Can Hazard function in this system – of course, but he may need to cut down a bit on the time in which he likes to hog the ball.

Asked about Hazard in his first official press conference, Sarri said he has decided to see the player before any decision is taken; though he promised to improve the player if he stays.

“Hazard is a very high-level player. I hope that I will manage to improve him. I’d like to meet them face-to-face. I would also like a player to come on the [training] pitch four or five days to have a clear idea.”

What decision favours both parties?

We have only spoken of Real Madrid’s desire to have the player, but with two years left on his current contract, the Blues still hold the Aces.

There have been rumours Barcelona are also interested in the player and are more likely to include a player – Ousmane Dembele – in any potential deal. That looks a better deal unless Real Madrid are also ready to send a player like Marco Asensio the other way.

Clearly, Chelsea would love to keep their talisman, a point Sarri reiterated in his press conference. “Clearly we would always like to keep the strongest players, this is what any manager wants to do, what any club wants to do.

“But we will have to see how the market goes over the next few days. I feel much more a pitch manager than a general manager.”

But if Hazard has to go, it must not be just for cash, it would be better if a promising player comes in the opposite direction immediately from either Real Madrid or Barcelona – that would be a good deal for both parties.

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Former footballer, passionate football enthusiast and analyst and a proud Nigerian.


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