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05-29-2012, 10:04 PM #1
Chelsea to land Lille playmaker Eden Hazard for £32m
Eden Hazard has announced that he is set to sign for Chelsea. The 21-year-old Lille playmaker will join the newly crowned European champions for £32m on a five‑year deal worth £100,000 a week after tax. The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, who does not have a permanent manager at the club, drove the purchase personally, in what is a stunning statement of intent.
The fee and package for such a young player is eye-watering but Chelsea's coup is also reflected in their having seen off strong competition from the Premier League champions, Manchester City, and the runners-up Manchester United – who were, by some distance, England's most consistent clubs last season. Chelsea lagged 25 points behind the pair and Abramovich is determined that his club will mount a more sustained domestic challenge next season. In outmuscling the Manchester clubs for Hazard, he has demonstrated the clout and desire that marked the early period, in particular, of his nine-year Stamford Bridge stewardship.
Abramovich wants to build on the success of winning the Champions League and FA Cup with a squad capable of playing the attractive football he craves. His other marque target is Hulk, the Porto and Brazil striker. Hulk has a €100m buy-out clause in his contract but he could more reasonably be expected to cost in the region of £30m. He can play as a right-sided attacker and, as such, would work alongside Fernando Torres in the Chelsea team rather than replace him.
Chelsea have released three of the starting XI from the Champions League final victory against Bayern Munich – Didier Drogba, José Bosingwa and Salomon Kalou – and there is the wish at the club to rejuvenate the playing staff, even though the chairman, Bruce Buck, has stressed that "evolution" will be the watchword. Chelsea have added the young wingers Marko Marin from Werder Bremen and Kevin de Bruyne from Genk, each for £7m fees. De Bruyne was signed in January and allowed to remain at Genk for the remainder of the season. Chelsea will consider loaning him again next season, with Lille keen to take him.
Hazard departs Lille having been convinced that Chelsea represents the best career move for him. He will play in the No10's role or off the left, dovetailing with Juan Mata. Joe Cole, the former Chelsea player who spent last season on loan at Lille, has emerged as one of the keys to the deal. Cole repeatedly sold the merits of Stamford Bridge to Hazard, much to the appreciation of the Chelsea hierarchy.
"I've probably put about £5m on his transfer with the amount of things I've said about him," Cole said. "He's got everything. He'll maybe become one of the best players in the world."
Hazard has just enjoyed his finest season, adding cutting edge which he was previously accused of lacking in the shape of 20 goals and 15 assists. He played as the No10 for Lille and he has taken up the position at international level under Belgium's new coach, Marc Wilmots. He will play against England at Wembley in the friendly on Saturday.
Hazard's move had become something of a saga, with the player professing over the past year to have been attracted, at various times, by all of the top clubs in England, Spain and Italy. He had also promised to join some of them only not to do so. He said on Monday lunchtime, in a tweet in English, that "i made up my mind. see you later. thanks", leading to further speculation. But, after training with the Belgium squad, he finally confirmed in the evening that he was "signing for the champion's league winner". He must still undergo a medical.
Petr Cech has signed a new four-year contract which will see him remain at the club until 2016. Thibaut Courtois, the reserve goalkeeper, is likely to stay on loan with Atletico Madrid.