LONDON — Chelsea fear there is nothing they can do to prevent Eden Hazard becoming a Real Madrid player this summer, sources have told ESPN FC.
Zinedine Zidane’s shock return to the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding Chelsea’s future on and off the pitch, has left many at the club convinced that the Belgium international regards a long-awaited move to the Spanish capital this summer as too good to turn down, and the only thing left to determine is his price.
Chelsea’s confidence of keeping Hazard has been receding for months, as the winger made no attempt to hide his attraction to Madrid while spurning the club’s attempts to re-open talks over a contract extension that would have made him the highest-paid player in their history.
The presence of his childhood idol Zidane in the Santiago Bernabeu dugout will only strengthen Madrid’s appeal to Hazard, although his long-standing interest in playing for the Spanish giants goes beyond the identity of their coach.
Chelsea are expected to demand at least £100 million from Madrid to sell Hazard, but are aware they will struggle to replace their superstar winger regardless of the size of fee they recoup — particularly if they are not able to secure a delay to the two-transfer window ban handed down by FIFA last month.
Being unable to register new players this summer would make Chelsea even more loathe to lose Hazard, who has made it clear on numerous occasions that he is not prepared to follow the example of countryman Thibaut Courtois and damage his relationship with the club by going on strike to force a move.
But the winger’s contract status means he will not have to, since any refusal to sell presents Chelsea with the risk of Hazard walking away as a free agent in 2020 and depriving the club of a huge windfall needed to re-invest in the squad.
Chelsea are more confident of keeping another of their prized assets, N’Golo Kante, amid reports in Spain this week that Madrid are also keen on signing the World Cup winner as part of Zidane’s planned overhaul of the squad.
Paris Saint-Germain have also expressed interest in signing Kante in recent transfer windows, but Chelsea’s position is strengthened by the fact that the midfielder signed a massive new contract worth around £290,000-a-week in November that commits him to the club until June 2023.
Maurizio Sarri’s decision to change Kante’s midfield role to accommodate Jorginho this season has encouraged speculation about the Frenchman’s future, but Chelsea consider him indispensable and, like Hazard, not the type of personality who would agitate to leave.