Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri admitted it will be hard to deny Eden Hazard a move to Real Madrid this summer, even if a reported £100 million ($130 million) move is “too cheap” for the Belgian captain.
Hazard was in stunning form as the Blues moved up to third in the Premier League, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over West Ham on Monday.
He admitted his first goal was “something special” as after collecting the ball just inside the West Ham half, Hazard jinked past three defenders before coolly slotting home.
However, Chelsea may be forced to cash in on their prized asset as their number 10 has just over one year left on his contract and has so far refused to extend his deal.
Should they refuse to sell this summer, Chelsea run the risk of losing their top scorer on a free transfer in 2020.
“It (£100m) is too cheap in this market! We have seen in the last few windows every price I think,” Sarri said.
“I’m sure the club doesn’t want to sell him, but of course we all have to respect his decision, I think.
“He is in the last season of contract, if he wants to have another experience we have to respect it. We will try in any way to convince him, but it is not easy.”
The prospect of losing Hazard is even more daunting for Chelsea as they are currently banned from signing any new players due to a one-year transfer ban imposed by FIFA.
“From the technical point of view no, not at the moment,” added Sarri when asked if Chelsea can cope without Hazard.
“Also because it is impossible to find another Hazard. At the moment there is not another Hazard, because the level is too high.”
– Hazard focused on top four –
Victory ensured Chelsea moved into third in the Premier League, two points clear of Tottenham and three ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal in the race for a top-four finish.
Both their London rivals and Manchester United — five points back in sixth — now have a game in hand on Sarri’s men.
But Hazard insisted he is focused solely on delivering Champions League football for Chelsea next season either via a top-four finish or winning the Europa League.
“For now I am just focusing on Chelsea until the end of the season,” he said.
“I want to finish in the top four and do well in the Europa League. We still have a lot to do and then we will see.”
With trips to Liverpool and Manchester United to come in Chelsea’s last five league games, much will depend on Hazard with Gonzalo Higuain showing little sign of hitting form.
The Argentine striker stated his desire before kick-off to make his move permanent should Chelsea successfully appeal their transfer ban, but he had another night to forget in front of goal.
“When Hazard is able to play like in the last two matches of course for the team it is easier,” Sarri said. “We can win against every team.”
Having failed to muster a single attack of note before the break, West Ham sparked into life in the second half and could have made Chelsea pay for their failure to kill the game off.
Marko Arnautovic’s clever cut-back picked out the unmarked Manuel Lanzini at the edge of the box, but his shot was too close to Kepa Arrizabalaga before Aaron Cresswell then arrowed a shot inches wide of the far post.
Sarri was growing increasingly frustrated on the sidelines as Chelsea continued to miss chances to make the game safe.
But the Italian was finally able to relax in stoppage time when Hazard was given acres of space to control Ross Barkley’s pass and produced the finish to match his performance.