Eden Hazard playing waiting game in possible Real Madrid transfer

Chelsea's Eden Hazard is facing a waiting game ahead of a possible transfer to Real Madrid. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 January 2018

Eden Hazard playing waiting game in possible Real Madrid transfer

LONDON: Before the year is out Real Madrid will complete one of the most expensive transfers in the history of the game. Eden Hazard is waiting to see if he will be part of it.
After a gilded run of three Champions League triumphs in four years, Madrid are floundering. Nineteen points adrift of Barcelona, eight behind third-placed Valencia, as La Liga nears the halfway mark, Florentino Perez knows the Spanish title has gone. And that his club’s hyperdemanding supporters want change.
Perez’s presidency, the economic model with which he has governed Europe’s most successful club, has always had Galactico transfers as its axis. Last year, Paris Saint-Germain outmuscled him for two signatures — the long-desired one of Neymar and the man-of-the-moment recruitment of Kylian Mbappe. This year there will be at least one landmark deal come what may.
Part of the Madrid method is to line up their men early. The footballers Perez sees as potentially superstellar are made aware of the president’s interest and sounded out as to their willingness to push for a transfer should Los Merengues press the bidding button. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, David De Gea, Neymar and Mbappe could all explain the process.
Chelsea’s most important forward, the English Premier League’s Player of the Year in 2015, has been on the long list for several seasons now.
Madrid officials have met Hazard in person and explained that a club he has dreamt of representing views him as an heir-apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo. Their current coach, Zinedine Zidane, has Hazard’s mobile number.
Those who know the Belgian well will tell you that Hazard neither hides neither his interest in playing for Madrid, nor his queries over whether those approaches will ever translate into a formal offer. His club and national team-mate Thibaut Courtois has spent time in the same boat, sounded out and chatted up by Perez’s recruitment team, yet made to wait.
Chelsea are aware of Hazard’s circumstances and realize the situation is essentially beyond their control. Twenty-seven last week, Hazard is the London club’s best-paid player. If he wants it there is a proposal to extend a contract that expires in two summers’ time, hiking his wages to around £300,000 ($413,000) per week.
If Madrid move for the player, Chelsea expect Hazard to ask to leave. And they know Madrid have the financial firepower to pay a transfer fee that a bottom-line conscious club preparing to rebuild its stadium at vast expense would find extremely hard to turn down.
A further concern is the timing. Antonio Conte wants out of Stamford Bridge and has been looking for his next job since before this season began — so Chelsea know they are about to lose a popular Premier League-winning manager. To lose your most creative footballer in the same summer would be a major public relations problem.
Add to that the need to tie Courtois down to a new deal or see one of the club’s other world-class talents leave under freedom of contract at the end of the 2018-19 campaign and you get a sense of some of the issues preoccupying Marina Granovskaia. Little wonder that Chelsea’s key executive has offered Courtois a new contract that would take the goalkeeper’s annual salary to £10 million, almost double his current terms.
If the story of a leading Premier League club waiting on Madrid to act in the transfer market is a familiar one, not everything is entirely in Perez’s control. The reassertion of PSG and Manchester City’s state-financed muscle has made his pursuit of the game’s most glamorous figures more multi-dimensional than ever before. (Both Qatar and Abu Dhabi-owned clubs contributed the abrasive inflation on Mbappe’s €180 million ($220 million) move from AS Monaco.)
Just as Lionel Messi exploited approaches from the same two clubs to extract football’s richest ever contract from Barcelona, so Ronaldo has his own hand to play at Madrid. Perez must decide whether to allow the club’s most successful footballer to leave for PSG or Manchester United (and deal with the dangerous repercussions if selling the Portuguese proves a mistake), or to meet Ronaldo’s demands for financial terms
superior to Messi’s.
Should Perez decline to risk censure over selling Ronaldo, expect Hazard to renew at Chelsea. If Madrid’s president gambles on selling a man who stockpiles Ballon d’Or, the little Belgian may finally go galactic.


Ukraine qualify for Euro 2020 despite Ronaldo's 700th goal

Updated 11 min 24 sec ago

Ukraine qualify for Euro 2020 despite Ronaldo's 700th goal

  • Ukraine held on to secure first place in Group

KIEV: Ukraine beat Portugal 2-1 on Monday to clinch a place at Euro 2020 despite Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his 700th career goal.
Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine two goals up after 27 minutes.
Although Ronaldo scored his landmark goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute and Taras Stepanenko was sent off, Ukraine held on to secure first place in Group B.
Ukraine join already qualified Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium at next summer's finals, while second-placed Portugal, who are eight points behind Ukraine, have Serbia just a point behind them with two matches remaning after they beat Lithuania 2-1.
"There are days like these, when the ball just doesn't want to go in," said Portuguese midfielder Danilo. "No need to do the maths now: we just need to win the next two games to reach Euro 2020."
Yaremchuk pounced from close range in the sixth minute. The centre forward reacted fastest after Rui Patricio dived to parry Serhiy Kryvtsov's header from a corner, and poke the ball across the line.
Yarmolenko added the second when outpaced the Portuguese defence to finish a swift counter attack with a low, crisp first-time shot.
Portugal dominated the second half and finally achieved a breakthrough when Stepanenko blocked a shot with his arm, receiving his marching orders before Ronaldo blasted home the penalty to make it 700 goals for club and country.
The goal was his 95th for Portugal. The 34-year-old is now just 14 goals behind the all-time international record of 109 held by former Iran striker Ali Daei.
While the exact number of goals scored by some of the game's legends is the subject of debate, Ronaldo is agreed to be the sixth player to reach 700 after Austrian Josef Bican, Brazilians Romario and Pele, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas and German Gerd Muller.