Chelsea are reportedly ready to "listen to offers" for disappointing winger Eden Hazard ahead of the summer transfer window. The Belgian is rapidly falling out of favour at Stamford Bridge, particularly among sections of the club's support.
French publication L'Equipe (h/t Get French Football News) is reporting Chelsea are "willing to listen to offers" for Hazard in the summer. The report states how Hazard's poor displays for much of this campaign are a factor, as well as the player's behaviour during the recent 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League:
The French newspaper attributes this shift in policy vis-a-vis the Belgian on behalf of the Chelsea board as a result of his catastrophic performances for the Blues so far in 2015/16 combined with his apparent disinterest at the London club.
His decision to swap shirts at half-time with PSG attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria angered the Chelsea fans to such an extent that many wonder whether he has done irreparable damage to his reputation at the club.
That was a game Hazard didn't see through to the end, coming off—apparently injured—with the result out of Chelsea's reach. Yet not every Chelsea fan was pleased with or convinced by the former Lille star's exit, according to James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
James Olley @JamesOlley
A smattering of boos from #cfc fans as Hazard limps off here and goes down the tunnel. No high-fives. Maybe they aren't obligatory.2016-3-9 21:18:45
As if to highlight the problem, the post-match comments of Blues boss Guus Hiddink served only to emphasise how far Hazard's stock has fallen at the Bridge:
James Olley @JamesOlley
Hiddink says Costa was not 100 pc fit but wanted to play. Hazard had a hip problem. Also says fans have right to boo Hazard.2016-3-9 22:16:05
The relationship between Hazard and the supporters was already fractured thanks to consistent rumours linking the mercurial No. 10 with Chelsea's Champions League conquerors.
Hazard hinted he'd be open to signing for PSG if the opportunity presented itself during an interview with French paper Le Parisien (h/t Adam Shergold of MailOnline) in February, saying: "It's hard to say no to PSG, as with all teams capable of winning the Champions League."
Those words are naturally hard for Chelsea fans to stomach while Hazard has done so little to deliver on the pitch since being named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers' Association last season.
But this campaign has brought just four assists and not a single goal in either Premier League or Champions League action, according to WhoScored.com.
That kind of drop in production seemingly already has Chelsea looking for attacking reinforcements.
Blues Target 'New Di Maria'
Chelsea are reportedly running the rule over a player compared favourably to PSG schemer Angel Di Maria. In fact, the Blues are willing to pay up to £8 million to sign Giovani Lo Celso, per Italian source Calciomercato.com (h/t Jamie Styles of the Daily Star).
The 19-year-old, who is also wanted by Serie A giants Juventus, plies his trade for Rosario Central in Argentina. He would obviously represent something of a project for Chelsea, a club usually content to commit its ample financial resources to bringing in more experienced and established players.
But a precocious creative midfielder certainly wouldn't go amiss in a Chelsea attack that has this term been inconsistent—something that comes from the erratic form of players such as Hazard.
Adding a gifted youngster with plenty to prove could help put the verve back in the Chelsea front line.
But the arrival of Lo Celso, like any other deal this summer, would depend largely on the whims of Hiddink's successor.
Incoming Manager Antonio Conte Targets 5 Signings
The favourite to take over from Hiddink is Italy chief Antonio Conte. David Woods of the Daily Star reported an exclusive saying it "is now just a matter of when not if the club will confirm the Italian manager’s appointment at Stamford Bridge on a three-year deal."
Woods also revealed the preparation Conte is undertaking for his new job: "We can reveal that Conte has been taking English lessons since January, with his new employers footing the bill."
Conte will apparently be busy once he assumes control. Matt Hughes of the Times reported how the former Juve gaffer wants up to five new players added during the summer window: "The Italy coach has spent the past few weeks analysing Chelsea’s squad and believes he needs two centre-backs, a left-back, a central midfield player and another striker to get the deposed champions back in the top four next season."
One centre-back Conte may consider is PSG ace Marquinhos. Goal's Bruno Andrade and Loic Tanzi mentioned Chelsea are keen on the Brazilian, stating Barcelona have already made contact, as well as revealing interest from Barca's bitter rivals Real Madrid.
The Blues need help at the back after conceding 39 times in England's top flight so far this season, per the Premier League's official site. Skipper John Terry seemingly won't be brought back, per BBC Sport, while Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have struggled in the middle.
Kurt Zouma's injury woes haven't helped matters, so there's a definite vacancy for a quality defender or two to be recruited this summer.
Conte's title-winning Juventus teams between 2011 and 2014 were built on a rough and stingy defence behind power and technical quality in midfield.
Hazard already looks like he won't be part of helping ensure the latter next season. Parting ways with the inconsistent attacking midfielder seems like a move that will suit both parties perfectly.
But ensuring Conte's makeover takes shape quickly will be a little tougher. It will require financial commitment to the right defensive and midfield targets this summer.