Chelsea

Chelsea Should Cash in on Eden Hazard If the Price Is Right

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  A dejected looking Eden Hazard of Chelsea after Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain scores to make it 1-2 during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2016

Eden Hazard continues to dominate the conversation at Chelsea. It's been a narrative that's defined the season as we attempt to decipher just why his form has dropped off so dramatically.

Despite the many subplots surrounding Chelsea at present, Hazard was the only topic of conversation at Cobham on Friday when Guus Hiddink met with the press.

It's the nature of the modern game that high-profile players command so much focus, but for Hazard, that has all shifted and it's a big concern. We're not talking about the player anymore. Instead it's about his state of mind and whether or not he wants to remain at Chelsea.

Will he join Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid in the summer? Is he happy in west London?

It's not a good sign for what lies ahead. The common trend is that when those questions are being asked with such regularity, the answer normally comes in the form of a hefty transfer.

Short of Hazard ending any rumours with some sort of public declaration, the sideshow is threatening to ruin Chelsea's attempts at rebuilding.

Hiddink stated the obvious after the midweek loss to PSG that knocked Chelsea out of the UEFA Champions League. The Blues' interim manager explained how the club was in a state of transition and they must now get to grips with that in order to restore their position among the elite.

Without clarity surrounding Hazard's future, Chelsea are going to be severely hindered in doing so.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  A dejected looking Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Ima
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

It's not knowing that will cripple them. Without a firm position on Hazard, how can this team move on from what's been a torrid campaign? They can't.

The rebuilding blocks at Chelsea will be the likes of Hazard, and Chelsea need them in place now. They can't wait until the end of the season or post-Euro 2016 for answers. It will be too late by then.

It's why the club must be ruthless and forget about Hazard as they consider the bigger picture. Chelsea need to set their price in the wake of interest in the Belgian and sit on it. If PSG or any other of their European rivals desire to meet it, there's little point in Chelsea dragging it out.

They must consider what's required to get through this drawn-out transition, using Hazard as leverage to achieve that.

We've seen how dithering has damaged teams in the past, notably Tottenham Hotspur with Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy flirted all summer with the prospect of selling the pair in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

It meant that when the time came and the club did eventually cash in, they had little time to react in the window and their squad suffered from an imbalance.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea has a rest during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea already have that problem, which is why the need to act efficiently this summer is paramount. With Champions League football off the table for next season, the Blues can ill afford to suffer any further in 2016/17.

We know how talented Hazard is. Indeed, collective wisdom tells us that his performances this season are a blip in the wider picture of his career. The big issue is whether we'll ever see the best of him at Chelsea again.

If it's not to be the case, Chelsea need to exploit Hazard's value while they can. He's only 12 months into a five-year contract, so the club have the power to hike up his market value. And as we've seen from recent player sales at Stamford Bridge, investments can be made on the back of them to strengthen the team.

It was on the back of Chelsea selling Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne in January 2014 that Chelsea were able to sign Nemanja Matic and Kurt Zouma. With the change left over from those deals, they also snapped up Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas that summer.

Selling David Luiz for £50 million strengthened the coffers to rapidly get those deals over the line.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

It was the club's hesitancy to continue their investment last summer that has contributed significantly to them getting in the mess they find themselves in. To get out of it, they need a reverse.

Chelsea put the handbrake on at the wrong time. Just as they looked to be entering a new era, the walls have dramatically fallen around them, and now the foundations look rocky.

There are going to be casualties along the way as they attempt to rebuild, and if Hazard has to be one of them, then so be it. He's been a passenger this season—an expensive one at that. If it means Chelsea have to cash in on him in order to move forward, the loss would be worth it.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.

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