Hiddink sounded confident former Lille star Hazard won't leave the Blues, as he cited the player's comfort in West London, per Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard: “He is very keen to be here, he extended his contract. He is happy here. His family is happy here. There is no sign from his side that he is eager to go."
MailOnline writer Ian Ladyman even noted how Hazard isn't performing like a player who wants away. Reporting on Chelsea's 5-1 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup fifth round, per BBC Sport's Phil McNulty, Ladyman wrote:
What is certain is that Hazard didn’t play like a man with a guilty conscience. The Belgian had been largely anonymous as Chelsea lost in Paris, but that wasn’t really his kind of game. Chelsea didn’t see enough of the ball for that.
Here at Stamford Bridge, however, Hazard revealed substantially more of his true self, as he led the steady dismantling of a young Manchester City that rather predictability could not carry the momentum of some first-half fortitude into the latter stages of the game.
The "guilty conscience" Ladyman mentioned was a reference to comments Hazard made about his desire to perhaps play for Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain during an interview with French publication Le Parisien (h/t Adam Shergold of MailOnline): "It's hard to say no to PSG, as with all teams capable of winning the Champions League."
Rumours of a Chelsea exit for Hazard have persisted all season. Last month, Rob Draper of the Mail on Sunday suggested the Blues want Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann to replace the inconsistent Belgian.
But Hiddink has kept faith in the mercurial 25-year-old. He's not alone in thinking the tricky No. 10 can still be an attacking talisman at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard got a rare goal in front of the home fans against City, per Squawka:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Eden Hazard scores his first competitive goal at Stamford Bridge in 294 days. (1-0 vs Palace, May 2015). Wait over. https://t.co/Iez2sedUig2/21/2016, 5:31:33 PM
Now Ladyman has stated it's up to the player to keep his mind at Chelsea: "It may well be that Hazard’s heart and mind are elsewhere already, but he could still have a decisive influence on his club’s fortunes between now and mid-May. It will certainly be interesting to see if he chooses to engage."
Hazard's future may look a little more stable, but the Blues apparently face a tougher task pursuing their own transfer targets.
Chelsea Face Competition for a Pair of Targets
One player who might offset the potential loss of Hazard is Leicester City's wing wizard Riyad Mahrez. But Chelsea will reportedly have to fend off La Liga super power Barcelona for his signature, according to Andy Dunn of the Daily Mirror: "There will be plenty of rivals in the summer race for Mahrez with Chelsea and Arsenal big admirers. And a bidding war would be the one thing that could put Barcelona off."
Mahrez boasts the trickery and eye for goal to make him a prime target for any number of major clubs. If Hazard does leave, Mahrez is the right player to replace his flair, pace and technique out wide.
But landing him ahead of clubs in next season's UEFA Champions League will be tough for a Chelsea squad almost certain to miss out on a place in Europe's premier club competition.
Chelsea will also have to compete with Premier League rivals Manchester United for PSG striker Edinson Cavani. That's according to Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star Sunday: "The Uruguay striker wants a move to the Premier League—like his Paris team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 34. And both United and Chelsea are eyeing a potential deal."
If there's hope for the Blues, it comes from Hetherington's claim United won't meet the £40 million fee for the skilled Uruguayan. Yet it remains to be seen why Chelsea would want Cavani when their own free-scoring centre-forward is back on form.
Diego Costa has been shredding defences since Hiddink took over, especially during the new calendar year, per Squawka:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Diego Costa has now scored 7 goals in 11 matches across all competitions for Chelsea in 2016. https://t.co/JHCIU17LkD2/21/2016, 4:39:26 PM
But there have been some suggestions Costa may be seeking a move back to his old club Atletico Madrid. In fact, Spanish publication Marca (h/t Metro's Mark Brus) recently reported Costa is even in talks with Atleti officials.
Still, the way Costa is playing this year, it will surely be difficult for any club to lure him from Stamford Bridge. The Spain international has his swagger back and is again the key to both current and future success for the Blues.
Keeping Costa is definitely more important for Chelsea than banking on Hazard staying put. If Hiddink can coax more improvement from the Belgian, all the better.
But if Hazard does leave, players such as Mahrez and Griezmann represent excellent alternatives.
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