Eden Hazard: Which EPL Big Club Will Land Lille's Star Man
The list of suitors for Lille's Eden Hazard is a who's who of Europe's prestigious clubs. Now that the Belgian has indicated his preference for England, the race is on for Premier League sides to grab his signature.
We've ranked the top five English clubs most likely to end up with Hazard on their roster this summer.
No. 5 Arsenal
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has openly admired Hazard for some time now. Which is ironic considering his reaction when City manager Roberto Mancini recently admired Robin van Persie, but let's not get sidetracked.
Hazard would be a fitting successor to the departed Cesc Fabregas in an attacking midfield role. In addition, he's the kind of arrival that could go a long way in persuading van Persie to remain in a Gunners shirt for the long term.
Unfortunately for Arsenal supporters, Wenger has started tut-tuting about expenses recently. With so many other deep pockets coming in for Hazard, Arsenal is likely to put business above competitiveness and take a step back.
No. 4 Chelsea
Chelsea looked Hazard's way in January and are likely to offer a big figure for him again over the summer. But with the only constant being owner Roman Abramovich, the 21-year-old would be justified in asking exactly who would be guiding his formative years if he moved to Stamford Bridge.
Hazard would represent the ideal injection of youth into a side that is approaching retirement en masse. But with other (equally rich) clubs offering similar terms, the turmoil in Chelsea's managerial role will likely send him elsewhere.
No. 3 Tottenham
Harry Redknapp says he likes Hazard a lot. He also says that ownership at Tottenham is willing to pay "for an exceptional talent."
While you'd be tempted to write off Spurs chances in a transfer bidding war with the Chelseas and Man Citys of the world, an interesting confluence of events could come out in Tottenham's favor.
With rumors swirling that Redknapp will leave the club at season's end for the vacant England job, chairman Daniel Levy is doing what he can to keep his manager.
Reports indicate that could include making a massive transfer kitty available. If an England offer does materialize, Redknapp could conceivably use it to pry enough money out of Levy to give himself a real shot at landing Hazard. Assuming of course that Harry wants to stay.
No. 2 Manchester City
Pick a top quality player and chances are Manchester City has tried to buy them. There is no doubt that City could match any price Lille decide to put on Hazard's services. But Roberto Mancini's embarrassment of riches could come back to haunt him in this particular hunt.
In a January interview with Canal+, Hazard said, "I want to play for a big club but also one where I will play every week."
In a squad with the likes of Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Nigel de Jong and Adam Johnson, the Lille man's preferred positions are subject to fierce competition each week.
If he's looking for big money, City will be his final stop. But if Hazard is serious about playing every week, that's something that will prove harder on Mancini's side.
No. 1 Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson is not afraid to spend big. He showed that again last summer when he brought in Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea at a combined cost of more than $70 million.
If Hazard looks at the significant progress of those youthful new arrivals this season, he could imagine himself developing quite nicely in a Manchester United shirt.
So when the old Scot showed up in the stands during Lille's match with Lyon over the weekend, it changed the game in the Hazard sweepstakes. Asked about a potential move to United, Hazard said, "Of course, this is a club that excites anyone."
He went on to talk about Ferguson saying, "For now my focus is on Lille but yes, it is a pleasure to be watched by one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best."
Marry the player's interest, United's financial resources and the relative absence of game changers in Ferguson's current midfield, and a Hazard to United move looks like the most natural thing in the world.