Saturday 21 September 2019

Real to step up efforts to land Hazard before end of season

Eden Hazard could be the first signing of the second Zinedine Zidane era. Photo: Reuters
Eden Hazard could be the first signing of the second Zinedine Zidane era. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Real Madrid are stepping up their attempt to sign Eden Hazard and want to agree a deal with Chelsea before the end of the season.

Real have already opened talks with Chelsea and are expected to make a fresh approach this week.

Hazard has no intention of signing an extension to his contract, which is due to expire in 2020, leaving Chelsea in a difficult negotiating position.

They value the 28-year-old at upwards of £100 million, while Real do not want to pay much more than £85 million.

But Hazard is now hopeful a deal will be agreed and Real want the Belgian to be the first signing of the new Zinedine Zidane era.

Hazard will be looking to add to his 17 goals in all competitions against West Ham United tonight. His best total for Chelsea remains the 19 he scored in 2014-'15.

Failed Chelsea failed in an attempt to move tonight's match forward because of Thursday night's Europa League quarter-final trip to Slavia Prague. And Maurizio Sarri has claimed he would accept taking a pay cut to his wages if it meant the club were able to negotiate a better fixture list.

Sarri admits the lucrative broadcasting rights, which contribute to him earning around £4.5 million a year, means he and the club are forced to accept the schedule. But given the choice, Sarri said he would take a pay cut.

"For me, it's not so important, the salary," said Sarri. "So, yes, of course [I'd take a pay cut]."

Asked if he was being serious, the Italian added: "Yes, of course. It is important to have fun, for me. To work without working because, for me, it's not work."

Chelsea's request to move the game was made as soon as the fixture was picked for television, but the Premier League was unsympathetic.

On having to play two vital games in four days, ahead of a trip to Liverpool on Sunday, Sarri said: "I am not able to understand the decision of the Premier League because we have to go to Prague as an English team. I'm not able to understand why we have to play on Monday. It's very strange.

"I think the answer [from the Premier League] was that, also in the Champions League, the English teams have only three days [to prepare]. I think that, in this case, it was easy to solve the problem."

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino also complained about his team's fixture list ahead of their Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund and Sarri added: "It's not just us, but all the teams involved in Europe. I think they could have done more for the English teams."

When it was put to Sarri that it was impossible for him to play the same team for the West Ham and Prague games, he replied: "I think so, also because we have to play after three days in Liverpool, so we'll need to change."

Although he would be happy to take a pay cut if it meant Chelsea had greater control of their fixtures, Sarri would not ask the same of his players and conceded he and they must accept their testing schedule.

"For the players, no [they shouldn't be paid less], because the Premier League is the best championship in the world," said Sarri. "So, we need to have very strong players."

Released Declan Rice joined Chelsea's academy as a seven-year-old in 2006, but was released eight years later and joined West Ham. He has since become an England international and is a summer transfer target of Manchester United.

Ahead of the 20-year-old's return to Stamford Bridge, Sarri admitted that he could do with a player like Rice in his squad, while also confirming he would like to make Mateo Kovacic's loan from Real Madrid permanent if Fifa would allow it.

Asked if he would want to try to sign a new midfielder to challenge Jorginho in the summer, Sarri said: "No, I want to try with Kovacic. He is only on loan, of course, but I'd like very much that Kovacic will stay with us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Chelsea v West Ham United,
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