Hazard con­firms Blues stay

Bel­gium for­ward has re­peat­edly been linked with a move away from Bridge

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - SACHIN NAKRANI

Eden Hazard has con­firmed he will not leave Chelsea this month, de­scrib­ing ru­mours sur­round­ing his fu­ture as “stu­pid­ity”.

Hazard has been heav­ily linked with a move away from Stam­ford Bridge for some time, and par­tic­u­larly so af­ter strongly hint­ing last month, fol­low­ing Bel­gium’s in­volve­ment at the World Cup, that his time in west Lon­don had come to an end.

“Af­ter six won­der­ful years at Chelsea, it might be time to dis­cover some­thing dif­fer­ent,” said the for­ward. “I can de­cide if I want to stay or go.”

That com­ment ap­peared to be the pre­cur­sor to a trans­fer to Real Madrid, who are search­ing for a re­place­ment for Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and can still play­ers up un­til Au­gust 31st when the La Liga trans­fer win­dow closes. But speak­ing af­ter Chelsea’s 3-2 vic­tory over Arse­nal on Satur­day, Hazard in­sisted he is not go­ing any­where for the time be­ing at least.

“Ev­ery­body knows what I have said af­ter the World Cup. But I’m happy here,” the 27-year-old told RMC Sport.

“A lot has been said. A lot of stu­pid­ity too. But at the mo­ment I’m happy. I have two years left on my con­tract and we’ll see what hap­pens. Leav­ing this year? I won’t go. The trans­fer mar­ket in Eng­land is closed. Clubs can still sell play­ers, but not sign new ones any­more. It would be a bit strange that they would sell me now while they can’t sign a re­place­ment.”

Hazard’s show of com­mit­ment will come as a re­lief to Chelsea’s sup­port­ers and pro­vide a boost to man­ager Mau­r­izio Sarri, who had said prior to the match against Arse­nal that he ex­pected the Bel­gium to re­main at Chelsea be­fore go­ing on to de­scribe him as “one of the best [PLAY­ERS]in Europe at the mo­ment.”

Hazard cer­tainly showed his qual­i­ties on Satur­day, tor­ment­ing Arse­nal with his move­ment and drib­bling abil­i­ties af­ter com­ing on as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute, seen most de­ci­sively with the as­sist that led to Mar­cos Alonso’s win­ning goal 10 min­utes from full-time.

New terms

Hazard’s cur­rent deal at Chelsea, who he joined from Lille in 2012, ex­pires on June 30th 2020 and the club have been try­ing for some time to se­cure him to new terms worth around £300,000 a week.

The player has so far re­sisted that and de­spite his fresh show of com­mit­ment, ru­mours sur­round­ing his de­par­ture will no doubt grow should he still not have signed a new con­tract when the Euro­pean trans­fer win­dow re­opens in Jan­uary.

“I’m good where I am now,” added Hazard. “Let’s see what hap­pens in one or two years.”

Mean­while, Hazard’s much-ma­ligned team­mate Al­varo Mo­rata has de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions by start­ing all three of Sarri’s games in charge and got his first goal of the sea­son dur­ing Satur­day’s thrilling vic­tory.

It was a fine fin­ish, too, with the 25-year-old show­ing clever move­ment, good strength and calm­ness un­der pres­sure to give the hosts a 2-0 lead af­ter 20 min­utes. Af­ter­wards Mo­rata in­sisted he had never con­tem­plated leav­ing Chelsea in the sum­mer and be­lieves that, if any­thing, the change of man­ager will help him es­tab­lish him­self as the main man at Stam­ford Bridge.

“I could have gone back to Spain or Italy, but I want to change things here,” he said. “I want to, not for all the haters, but for Chelsea. Chelsea gave me ev­ery­thing I needed.

“The most im­por­tant things is the way we play. Last sea­son it was di­rect balls and for me to pro­tect the ball in the air is not my best qual­ity. Now I can at­tack the space, I can play one touch and go in the area for the crosses. It’s bet­ter for me.”

Mo­rata is en­thused by the suc­cess Sarri had with the likes of Gon­zalo Higuain, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo In­signe at Napoli and feels con­fi­dent that un­der the 59-year-old’s guid­ance, he too can be­come a con­sis­tently po­tent cen­tre-for­ward. “He [SARRI]works with the ball al­ways and when you al­ways have the ball the strik­ers have more chances,” Mo­rata said. “I want to score more than 30 goals, but I would pre­fer to score 15 or 20 and get the Premier League.”

‘‘ A lot has been said. A lot of stu­pid­ity too. But at the mo­ment I’m happy

Lay down roots

Mo­rata also seems keen to lay down roots hav­ing reg­u­larly been on the move dur­ing a ca­reer that has also taken in a spell at Ju­ven­tus. He spoke of “look­ing for­ward to buy­ing a house” and how he can’t wait for his “ba­bies to grow up and to put them in school.” That kind of talk hardly helps Mo­rata shed his ‘po­lite guy’ image but, equally, it re­flects a level of de­ter­mi­na­tion on the part of the Spain for­ward. He is here to stay and we had all bet­ter get used to it.

Mo­rata will hope to start again when Chelsea travel to New­cas­tle United on Satur­day in search of a third suc­ces­sive league win.

– Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GLYN KIRK/AFP

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has ruled out a move to Real Madrid in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

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