Antonio Conte believes Eden Hazard can satisfy his ambitions at Chelsea, despite Real Madrid’s interest. The Premier League leaders will instigate talks aimed at securing the Belgium midfielder to a new long-term deal at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard, who is the club’s highest paid player on around £200,000-a-week, is contracted until 2020, but is expected sign new terms before the end of the current campaign. He does not operate with an agent and is awaiting Chelsea’s proposal, which is likely to increase his basic wage significantly. He is settled in London with his family and is ready to play his part when the team return to the Champions League next season.
Conte met the club’s director Marina Granovskaia this week to discuss summer transfer targets and contract renewals. The Italian is expected to sign a new deal once the title has been won, with Chelsea intent upon strengthening their squad with Alexis Sánchez, Tiemoué Bakayoko, Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk discussed. The future of John Terry was also on the agenda.
While the focus has been on recruitment plans, the champions-elect aim to retain those players who have carried all before them this season and the Italian is far from unnerved by Real’s interest in Hazard. “The will of the player is very important,” he said. “If the player is happy and the player knows he will stay in a great team with great ambition, I don’t see any problem, even if this [other] club calls itself Real Madrid. Eden is a Chelsea player, we are happy with him and he is happy with us. I don’t see problems about him.
“We are already in a great club. We have started to build something good for the future, and the ambitions of this club are the same as mine and my players. We stay in the right place if you want to be competitive in the game, be competitive in the future. I hope to play in the Champions League next season so I’m sure about this, that he’d be staying in the right place, in a great club with great ambition. I can tell this with 100%. It’s very important to feel that you stay in the right place with ambition.
“We are building something important together, but we have only just started our building [work]. If we are able to win the league this season, we’ll be doing an incredible thing because we are in a moment that the club is in transition. A lot of old players – John Mikel Obi, Oscar, Branislav Ivanovic – have finished their careers with Chelsea. To win this season is great. We are putting great foundations down to build something important for the future. I think the players feel this.”
Conte described Sánchez, whose Arsenal contract has 15 months to run, as a top player and has urged the club to make the pursuit of the Chilean the priority rather than Real’s Álvaro Morata, who was a target last summer.
Terry’s one-year deal expires at the end of June and the prospect of another 12-month contract, with the chance to continue his coaching education, has not been ruled out. Given his desire to extend his playing career, the 36-year-old club captain may opt to move, however.
Hazard, who missed Belgium’s games against Greece and Russia with a calf injury, trained normally at Cobham on Friday and will be fit for Saturday’s visit of Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge as Chelsea seek a 14th consecutive home victory in all competitions. Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois are also available after knocks.