With the summer transfer window opening for Premier League teams on Thursday, clubs in England are now working down their shortlist to see who is and is not attainable over the next few months.
Chelsea are in a peculiar position, due to their transfer ban for two windows being upheld by FIFA last week. The Blues are set to contest this decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it is fair to say that they will be behind others if the outcome is reversed and they can in fact sign players.
With Christian Pulisic signing last January and joining the club over the summer, one large piece of transfer business has already been concluded – which takes the pressure off somewhat with their foresight that this ban would be coming. However, even with the American touching down in London, all eyes are on Eden Hazard’s decision and whether he will stay or go.
The Belgium international has been with the club since 2012 and has been considered the best of the bunch in those seven years in West London. Hazard has danced in front of the Chelsea faithful every other week with his name being reverberated around the stadium and has won prestigious honours at Stamford Bridge.
But with Real Madrid, who have been chasing his signature for several years, approaching their rebuilding summer with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, the Belgian’s chapter at Chelsea is drawing to a sharp close.
It is likely that Hazard’s last match in a Chelsea shirt will be against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan, contesting for the Europa League final. After yet another stellar season contributing a combined 35 goals and assists in 51 appearances, it is no wonder that Zidane wants to use the Belgian to rebuild his forward line.
With Gareth Bale potentially leaving the club this summer after the French manager made it clear that he will not be in his plans next season, it makes perfect sense as to why Zidane sees Hazard as the player to come and make an immediate difference.
Although Karim Benzema has had a more prolific season than his last few, the manager is evidently also taking into consideration that the centre forward will be turning 32 by the end of this year. With Hazard alongside the Frenchman, goals should come at a more frequent rate – especially when they matter and without the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Even with a year left on his contract, Chelsea are demanding a hefty fee for Hazard. The transfer fee is rumoured to be in the region of £90 million, which would be a healthy return rate for a player who is nearing the end of his contract and has delivered on his talent for seven years at the club.
Hazard first announced that he was joining the ‘Champions of Europe’ when Chelsea won the European cup in 2012, and it would be somewhat fitting if the Belgium international bowed out by winning the Europa League for the club before heading over to the Spanish capital and starting the next phase of his career.