Eden Hazard confirms Europa League win is Chelsea farewell

‘I want a new challenge, like I said after the World Cup, so now it is up to the two clubs’

Eden Hazard celebrates with the Europa League trophy in Baku. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty

Eden Hazard celebrates with the Europa League trophy in Baku. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty

 

Eden Hazard has confirmed his desire to pursue a new challenge after seven years at Chelsea, having delivered an inspirational performance as a parting gift as his team thrashed Arsenal to claim the Europa League.

The Belgian will now hope Real Madrid can strike an agreement to complete his long-mooted move to the Bernabéu, with talks due to resume between the clubs this week. The 28-year-old’s double helped claim the 16th major trophy of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, and a first for Maurizio Sarri as a coach, as Chelsea ran riot with four goals in 23 second-half minutes to brush aside Arsenal.

“We will decide in a few days and the only target in my mind tonight was to win this final,” said Hazard, echoing sentiments first expressed at the end of the World Cup last summer, after which his desire to leave was knocked back by the club. “But I have made my decision already and now I’m waiting on both clubs. I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know. My dream was to play in the Premier League and I have done that for one of the biggest clubs, so maybe now it is the time for a new challenge.

“I want a new challenge, like I said last year after the World Cup, so now it is up to the two clubs. I am still waiting, like you are waiting, like the fans are waiting. We will see in the next couple of days. But this was the perfect end. I want to say to the fans that I love them, they are part of my family and I will always support Chelsea. If it is a goodbye, thank you for these seven years.”

A fee of around £100m should secure Hazard’s services as he enters the final 12 months of his current contract at Stamford Bridge. Sarri, whose own future at Chelsea remains in doubt after a tumultuous campaign with Juventus credited with an interest in luring him back to Serie A, admitted he had long known of Hazard’s intentions.

Maurizio Sarri has a cigarette after Chelsea’s Europa League final win in Baku. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP
Maurizio Sarri has a cigarette after Chelsea’s Europa League final win in Baku. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP

“As you know, Hazard is a wonderful player, but you have to spend two or three months to understand him as a man,” said the Italian. “But when you are able to understand him as a man, he’s a wonderful man. I knew Eden wanted to leave. But I wanted to respect his decision.

“The season is just finished one hour ago. I will begin to speak with my club, with the owner, with a director, with Marina [GRANOVSKAIA]... I don’t know. We need to speak like at any club at the end of the season. We need to know what the club can do for me and what I can do better for the club. Then, after a couple of days, I will decide. But I have a contract so, at the moment, we are talking about nothing.”

Abramovich attended this match, watching his team in a competitive game for the first time since 2017. “You know very well that I love the Premier League, the level of the competition. I am lucky because I am in Chelsea, one of the best teams, one of the best clubs in the Premier League in the best championship in the world,” said Sarri. “So, at the moment, I am happy. But I want to know if the club are happy. If we can improve. That’s normal.”

Asked if he thought he deserved to remain as head coach after steering Chelsea to a third-place finish, the Europa League and the Carabao Cup final, he said: “I think so, but it’s only my opinion. My opinion is not enough.”

He praised his team for showing “more courage” after a goalless first half, with Chelsea running riot after the break as Arsenal sank without trace. Their own chances of qualifying for the Champions League died a death in distant Baku, though Unai Emery insisted progress had been made over his first campaign in charge and significant additions could still be made in the transfer market this summer.

“Maybe [failure to qualify for the Champions League will affect budgets], but we are a big team,” he said. “Arsenal is a big name in the football world and a lot of players want to play here. We are in a process and we need to be strong. When we started this season, the idea was to get more competitive. To be closer to the other teams. We did that. At the moment it’s not enough to reach our targets, but we’ll continue working. The club is working to improve to help us go our way. I am positive for our future.” - Guardian

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