Chelsea faced an awful lot of uncertainty over the summer. Manager Antonio Conte, who led the Blues to the Premier League title in his first season with the club, was dismissed late in the summer in light of a tumultuous second year at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea subsequently lured Italian manager Maurizio Sarri away from Napoli.
The team also faced uncertain situations regarding the Belgian tandem of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois. There were constant rumours circulating regarding the chance that Real Madrid would make a swoop for Hazard after Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Juventus. Courtois said after Belgium was ousted from the World Cup that he and Hazard were essentially a package deal.
However, only one of them wound up leaving Stamford Bridge. Courtois was sold to the Spanish giants for about 35 million Euros in a deal that brought Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic to England on loan. Despite all of the rumours, Hazard remains a Blue.
Despite the fact that most top rated sportsbooks had Chelsea on the outside looking in on the top-4 coming into the season, Hazard has helped lead the Blues to the top early in the new campaign. Chelsea are tied at the top of the Premier League on 20 points with both Manchester City and Liverpool. Chelsea are technically second due to goal differential. The Blues are at plus-13 in terms of goal differential this term, while Manchester City are in first at plus-18.
While Hazard and Chelsea have gotten off to an impressively strong start, the influential Belgian attacker still seems to have his mind elsewhere. Hazard has already scored 7 goals through Chelsea’s first 8 Premier League matches of the new season, including one in the Blues’ easy 3-0 triumph over Southampton over the weekend. His contract is set to expire at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, and his future in England seems in doubt.
After the victory over Southampton, Hazard told the press,
“Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie, it is my dream since I was a kid. We will see. I don’t want to talk about this every day. I don’t have time, but we will talk about my future soon. In my head, sometimes I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay. It is a hard decision. It is my future. I am 27 and I will turn 28 in January.”
This is not the first time Hazard has been open in his admiration regarding Los Blancos. After Belgium’s third-place finish in the World Cup in Russia over the summer, Hazard said that “it might be time to discover something different” following 6 years at Chelsea. He added that Madrid was undoubtedly his “preferred destination.” However, Chelsea showed zero willingness in selling the player, so he remains in England.
While Hazard has been a good soldier at Stamford Bridge, Courtois essentially forced his way out. Courtois made the move happen by refusing to show up to the team’s preseason training camp. Once Real Madrid came in with an offer, the Blues decided to accept. Chelsea subsequently set a new transfer record by paying £71 million to replace Courtois with former Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Hazard made it clear that he does not want to leave London on poor terms. He said, “I don’t want that drama. I want what’s good for me, but I want what’s good for the club because the club has given me everything. I don’t want to say, ‘Yes, I am signing a new contract,’ and then I don’t end up signing.” Courtois had previously hinted at potentially inking a new deal with the Blues before demanding a transfer.
“I could talk now [about a new contract]. If they come to me, then I will talk. I don’t want to say that I am not talking with the club or the owner. I am talking a lot with them. I am happy, and I don’t need anything. It is not trophies. Of course, when you play, you want to win but I just want to enjoy things on the pitch, like I am at the moment.”
The Belgian has emerged as arguably the best player in the Premier League in his 6-plus seasons in England. After 4 successful campaigns with Lille in France, Chelsea paid £32 million to secure his signature. To this point, he has bagged 76 goals in his 216 appearances with the club. With Chelsea, Hazard is a two-time Premier League champion. He has also helped the Blues to wins in the FA Cup (2017-18), League Cup (2014-15) and UEFA Europa League (2012-13).
Hazard also had high praise for his new manager, Sarri. He went on to say,
“I think that this is the best. We had some great results in the past so I can’t say that the managers before weren’t good, but I think in terms of football and the way we are playing, yes, this is the best. It is similar to how we played in France with Lille – a lot of pass and move, movement from the team. Then we also have good players in our team, so that’s why we are playing this great football.”
Real Madrid could certainly use a player like Hazard right about now. Julen Lopetegui’s men are currently mired in a 4-match winless stretch that includes losses against Sevilla, CSKA Moscow and Alaves. Real also nabbed a point in the league with an uninspired scoreless draw against intracity rivals Atletico Madrid. However, Los Blancos remain very much in the La Liga title hunt, as no other team has run away with it as of yet. Through 8 matches, Madrid are fourth in the league on 14 points, just 2 points adrift of Sevilla at the top.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are tied at the top of the Premier League on 20 points with both Manchester City and Liverpool. Chelsea are technically second due to goal differential. The Blues are at plus-13 in terms of goal differential this term, while Manchester City are in first at plus-18.