With the summer transfer window fast approaching and Eden Hazard’s future coming under a tremendous amount of scrutiny, we take a look at why Chelsea should do everything in their power to retain the Belgian beyond the summer.
Chelsea’s stadium expansion project has been in the works for a while. Stamford Bridge’s renovation into a world class 60,000 capacity stadium is expected to cost around £1 billion given the scale, complexity and the time it would take to complete the massive undertaking.
As is the case with everything else at the club, this project is set to be bankrolled by club owner Roman Abramovich and given that the 51-year-old doesn’t quite have the same kind of financial backing that Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain enjoy, costs will have to be cut somewhere.
In the past few seasons, Chelsea have tried to follow a model of sustainability when it comes to transfers. For example, this season they have spent an estimated €258 million in the summer and winter transfer windows, but they have had an estimated net spend of only €57 million.
The Blues don’t have the same kind of pull in the market that they used to enjoy around a decade ago. Romelu Lukaku, Gonzalo Higuain, Kalidou Koulibaly, Alex Sandro, Edin Dzeko and Leonardo Bonucci are just some of big names that they have failed to acquire in recent times.
As Antonio Conte will attest, managers do not have complete control over transfer activity at Stamford Bridge and that power rests in the hands of the less football minded and largely business-inclined board. The manager is expected to make do with what is provided to him.
It is clear that Chelsea are slowly transitioning toward a sustainable model of business. Net spending will be reduced and there will have to be more focus on the youth. The challenge here will be to keep Chelsea competitive, regularly challenging for the titles and a permanent fixture in the UEFA Champions League.
While it seems as if the Blues are set to part ways with Antonio Conte in the summer, it is clear that if Chelsea wish keep competing with Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, they will need to do absolutely everything in their power to hold on to one man in particular – Eden Hazard.
The 27-year-old has been by and large Chelsea’s best player since joining the club in the summer of 2012. Barring the nightmarish 2015/16 season, the mercurial Belgian has had a largely successful stint at the SW6 – scoring 88 goals and providing 73 assists in 294 appearances.
In that time he has won the Capital One Cup, 2 Premier League titles, the Europa League and if Chelsea fans have their way, the 2017-18 FA Cup trophy next month. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows however, with inconsistencies in form and injuries blighting his Stamford Bridge stay.
Hazard, who has been named in the PFA Team of The Year in 4 out of his 6 seasons in England, has a little over two years left on his current contract. The Blues are currently fifth on the table, with their chances of qualifying for the Champions League seeming slim, at best.
A player of his ability and talent deserves to be playing in Europe’s top competition week-in-week-out and both he and Chelsea will be well aware of that fact. Should he wish to leave, there will be no shortage of potential suitors ready to battle it out for his signature.
So with 20 months left on his current contract, the prospect of no Champions League football next season and Real Madrid reportedly interested, Chelsea face an uphill battle in trying to convince the former Lille forward to extend his Stamford Bridge for a few more years.
Eden Hazard is and has been the heartbeat of this Chelsea side. He is easily their best attacking player on his day and this season when the he hasn’t performed at optimal levels or has been absent through injury, the Blues have often seemed like a mid-table side.
While Willian and Morata have also had their spells of good form, the Belgian has consistently maintained a fairly high level throughout the campaign. He is easily one of the best players on the planet and there is no doubting that he takes his side to another level of quality when he hits his stride.
There is arguably no one on the planet better than the Belgian at dribbling past players and that makes the 27-year-old a threat unlike any other in the final third of the pitch. Had it not been for the collective mediocrity of his fellow attacking players, he would surely have had more than 11 assists to show for this campaign.
The latest example of his influence can be seen in their most recent Premier League victory against Southampton at St.Mary’s. After a fairly dull 55 minutes, the Belgian sparked to life and began leading his side’s comeback. The Blues were leading 3-2 only twenty three minutes later thanks to some inspired substitutions from Antonio Conte and his equalizer.
One need only look at his performances in Chelsea’s last two Premier League winning campaigns to see how important he is to their title aspirations. 14 goals and 10 assists in 38 League appearances in the 14/15 season and 16 goals and 5 appearances in 36 appearances over the course of the previous campaign.
Needless to say, if Chelsea are to continue being a competitive side, they absolutely need to hold onto the Belgian. The same goes for other attacking players like Willian, Fabregas and even Pedro, who are superb players in their own right. As mentioned earlier, the Blues are now going through a period in their history where they cannot attract world class talent as easily as before.
There are clubs that are richer, stronger, in more attractive destinations who can guarantee Champions League football every season and Hazard is a special kind of talent, one that could walk into the starting XI of any top European club at this point.
So if Chelsea were to let last season’s Player Of The Year leave for a massive amount in the summer, finding a player of similar talent and ability would be next to impossible in this inflated market and it is for precisely that reason, that they cannot afford to let him go in the first place.
Should Conte leave in the summer, the club will almost certainly find a manager who can get his team to play fast, attractive, attacking football – just the kind that Hazard is best suited to and he should be tasked with building a team around the dazzling Belgian.
The Italian’s departure will take Chelsea back to square one and at 27, Hazard, who is in the peak years of his career, will be a player the new arrivals and youngsters can look up to for guidance. The Blues can build a young team around him, one he could lead by example.
He certainly has the leadership credentials, having taken charge of his national team in the absence of Vincent Kompany. Perhaps if Chelsea are lucky enough, he could one day lead them when they usher in a new era at a brand new Stamford Bridge Stadium in a few years’ time.