Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has urged the board and Eden Hazard to thrash out his future once and for all and warned that the uncertainty threatens to undermine the club’s plans.
Hazard’s contract expires in the summer of 2020 and he has attracted long-standing interest from Real Madrid. Hazard said earlier this week he wished to become a Chelsea legend but later said he would be prepared to wait until the end of the season before making a decision over his future.
Chelsea are happy to pay Hazard in excess of £300,000 a week to stay at the club but the Belgian is biding his time. He wants Champions League football and to see progress from the club in the transfer market.
Sarri, however, wants the club to be able to plan for the future and that would require clarity over Hazard’s next step.
Asked if he will sit down with Hazard to discuss his future, Sarri said: ‘I don’t know but I think it is time to decide. I have not the power to do this. I am the coach. I am not the president and not in charge of the market.
‘I only speak to him about the position on the pitch. I think we have to solve the problem if we want to plan for the future. I think they need to start in this period.’
When it was suggested to Sarri that Chelsea are powerless if Hazard continues to prevaricate, Sarri said: ‘I don’t think so. The club can decide for him.’
Sarri was then asked if he was suggesting Hazard could be sold. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘But I think it’s right that the club knows the future and has the chance to programme the future.’
Chelsea have no intention of selling Hazard next month but Sarri is growing frustrated by the contract stand-off. The Italian is also not prepared to pander to the 27-year-old over his position on the field.
Hazard has repeatedly expressed his desire to play on the wing rather than as a false nine, where he has operated in recent weeks, but Sarri insists the Belgian will continue in this role.
The Italian said: ‘I am really very happy with him in this position, because he is very able to score, to open spaces for team-mates. I don’t know if he prefers to play as a winger, but if he plays like in the last match in the centre, it’s not a problem to put him there.
‘He played four matches and scored three goals and made two assists. It depends on the moment, maybe in the future we will be able to play with a striker and Hazard together.’
Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace on Sunday without forwards Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have both picked up injuries. Alvaro Morata, who was left out of the squad entirely for the victory at Watford, is fit to play. Sarri also insisted that he wants Cesc Fabregas to remain at the club but should Chelsea lose the Spain midfielder, he would demand that a replacement is signed.
Sarri added: ‘In this position we have only Jorginho and Fabregas and it would be a very big problem to be without Cesc. I want him to stay. If Cesc goes then I think we need to buy another player, and it’s not easy because technically Cesc is a very important player, and it’s very difficult to find in the market a player with these characteristics.’
Sarri’s Palace counterpart Roy Hodgson insists his club are only interested in buying, not selling, when the transfer window opens next week.
Wilfried Zaha has long been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park but Hodgson is concentrating on strengthening his squad and not weakening it.
‘Obviously we have our targets,’ he said. ‘We have people who we would hope, if they were available, we could persuade to come, but it is all work in progress. Who knows if anything will happen?
‘I still think the most important thing is that we keep building and keep faith with the squad we have. I don’t think we have a bad squad of players. It would be nice to add a few new faces, to introduce a bit of fresh blood, some new spirit.
‘But it is a difficult market in January, so I am very realistic and sanguine about it all.’