29 Apr Unclear future for Hazard
Antonio Conte has admitted he cannot guarantee Eden Hazard will be a Chelsea player next season, amid persistent interest from Real Madrid.
Belgium playmaker Hazard has hit 15 Premier League goals this term to drag Chelsea to the brink of the title.
The 26-year-old has flourished under the taskmaster Italian after a dismal campaign last term, being branded by fans as one of the “rats” partly responsible for Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
Hazard’s resurgence has Spanish giants Real on high alert, but Conte still believes Chelsea do not want to sell and that the Belgian himself is content with life at Stamford Bridge.
Asked if he could guarantee Hazard would be at Chelsea for the next campaign, Conte replied: “I think that it’s impossible for me to take this responsibility.
“Not only for Eden, but for every single player.
“In this situation the club has the final decision. I can tell my opinion about this situation, but the club has the final word about this situation. I think this is right.
“I don’t think that this idea (to sell Hazard) is in the mind of the club b ecause I think that we have to improve the team; reinforce the team. But you know that in football there is also the will of the player.
“But I think also Eden is very happy to stay in Chelsea. I can tell this but I don’t have a crystal ball for the future. I think anything is possible in football. But not only for Eden but for every single player.
“Everything is possible, because you must understand there are different wills to compare, and to take the decision.”
Chelsea can rubber-stamp Champions League qualification by picking up any points at Everton on Sunday, while a win would edge Conte’s side ever closer to the league title.
And the former Juventus boss would love to have Hazard in his ranks for an all-out assault on Europe’s top club competition next term.
“I think Eden is very happy to stay with us, to work with us,” said Conte. “I think his family is very happy to stay here and to play for this team, for this club.
“The fans love him and I think there are a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and to try to reach the best with this club.
“Don’t forget that the target of this club is to try to win in every competition that you have to play.
“He’s a great player, he has great talent, but I think this season he has improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also I think that he’s becoming stronger mentally. And I think this level is very important to try to have this next step.
“Because this step brings you to the best players in the world. And I think that Eden is starting to take this step.”