Sunday 25 August 2019

'I made my decision a few weeks ago' - Hazard targets Real deal

Leicester City 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

John Percy

Eden Hazard has thrashed out his future with Chelsea officials and is determined to join Real Madrid this summer, but the Belgian is likely to wait until after the Europa League final to announce his decision.

Hazard has already informed Chelsea's board of his intentions and it seems inevitable that this was his final Premier League game for the club.

Chelsea are continuing to play hardball with Real Madrid and are demanding a fee in excess of £100 million for the 28-year-old. The Spanish club are set to ramp up their bid to sign Hazard and hope to agree a fee before the end of the month.

Chelsea will conclude their season in the Europa League final against Arsenal on May 29 and Hazard will reveal his next move then. When asked if he wanted the situation cleared up earlier this season, he said: "Yes, I wanted that, but that's not happened. I'm still waiting like you are waiting and like the fans are waiting.

"I have made my decision, but it is not just about me. I told the club a couple of weeks ago. We have a final to play and let's see.

"Has it been a distraction? Never. When you're on the pitch, you try to be focused on the pitch with the ball."

Asked if finishing in the top four would make any difference to his plans, Hazard replied: "No. I don't think so. I have made my decision"

Hazard played only 21 minutes of this dull stalemate, after Maurizio Sarri named him on the bench, but this felt like the end as he stood in front of the away support with both thumbs up.

Sarri said: "I don't know [if this was Hazard's last game]. I hope of course, like every fan of Chelsea, that he will remain with us."

Chelsea finished the season in third after this draw, so perhaps Sarri's debut season in English football was not as bad as his detractors would have you believe. Even if Hazard does leave, they will be assured of Champions League football next season and could finish the campaign with a trophy.

Leicester will wave farewell to a difficult season, finishing strongly under new manager Brendan Rodgers but suffering the tragic loss of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

This was essentially a meaningless encounter for both clubs, with Chelsea already secure in the top four. They dominated the early stages with Ross Barkley denied by Kasper Schmeichel, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Willian also went close.

Leicester should have taken the lead when Jamie Vardy bore down on goal, after David Luiz slipped, but his attempted pass to Youri Tielemans was all wrong and Chelsea cleared.

It was purely a question of when Hazard would be introduced, but Shinji Okazaki was on first, making an emotional farewell in his final game for Leicester. Hazard finally appeared 21 minutes from time, yet not even he could lift this game out of the ordinary.

Rodgers will look to next season with optimism, and remains hopeful that Leicester can agree a £40 million deal with Monaco to keep Tielemans.

The manager said: "I left an incredible club [Celtic], I did that for a reason and the reason was to come to work with the players here. They're better than I had thought, seeing them close up. So if we can keep them together and then add bits of quality then we can look to push on again next season." (© Daily Telegraph)

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