Chelsea have no desire to sell Eden Hazard to Real Madrid regardless of whether the Spanish club’s long mooted interest crystallises in a world record bid this summer, though Antonio Conte has admitted the player himself would end up determining his own future.
Hazard, who scored his 15th league goal in the midweek victory over Southampton, will seek to maintain his outstanding form at Everton on Sunday as the leaders attempt to stretch their advantage back to seven points before Tottenham Hotspur’s participation in the north London derby later in the day. The Belgian still has three years to run on his £200,000-a-week contract at Stamford Bridge but, while Chelsea are expected to offer new terms as a reward for his contribution this season, Hazard revealed earlier this week that talks of an improved deal have yet to take place.
That appears to have fuelled Real’s interest in a player who has constantly been linked in Spain with a move to the Bernabéu and for whom Madrid would apparently be willing to pay a world record fee. Regardless, Conte expects Chelsea to strengthen heavily this summer, rather than lose key performers before a return to the Champions League, and is planning for life with the 26-year-old still in the ranks. “I don’t think that this idea [to let Hazard leave] is in the mind of the club,” said the Italian. “I think we have to improve the team, to reinforce the team. But you know that, in football, there is also the will of the player.
“I think Eden is very happy to stay in Chelsea, to stay with us and work with us. I can tell this. But the future? I haven’t a crystal ball, no. I think everything is possible. Everything is possible in football and not only for Eden but for every single player. Everything is possible. You must understand that there are different wills to compare and then to take the decision.”
Asked if he could guarantee that Hazard would stay at the club, Conte added: “I think that it’s impossible for me to take this responsibility, not only for Eden but for every single player. In this situation it’s the club who have the final decision. The club has the final word about this situation. I think it’s right for it to be like this.”
Conte, while reluctant to comment on Hazard’s injury-hampered 2015-16 campaign, has spied improvement in the Belgium playmaker under his stewardship this term. “My opinion of Eden is he’s a great player,” said the Chelsea manager. “He has great talent. This season he improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also, I think, he’s becoming stronger. Mentally stronger. At this level it’s very important to try to have this step because it brings you up to [the same level as] the best players in the world. And Eden is starting to take this step.
“I can’t tell if he is ‘more mature’ because, last season, I wasn’t the coach. I didn’t work with him. I can only talk about this season but I see a player with good maturity, a player who wants to be decisive during the game. I can tell this.”
The player, who does not operate with an agent, has indicated he is relaxed over any prospective contract offer. “I’m not surprised about that because, I repeat, I think Eden is very happy to stay with us and work with us,” added Conte. “I think his family is very happy to stay here and play for this team, for this club. The fans love him and I think there are a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and to try to reach the best with this club. Don’t forget, the target of this club is to try to win in every competition we play in.”