Eden Hazard: 'It Might Be Time' to Leave Chelsea, Will Let Blues Decide

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Eden Hazard of Chelsea during The Emirates FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 19, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Eden Hazard has admitted he could leave Chelsea after the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia but said he would let the Blues decide his future, even though he knows where he'd want to play next.

Hazard was speaking after scoring to help Belgium beat England 2-0 and secure third place at the World Cup in St. Petersburg on Saturday:

Kristof Terreur 📰 @HLNinEngeland

Eden Hazard: “After 6 wonderful years at Chelsea it might be time to discover something different. Certainly after this World Cup. I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision - if they want to let me go. You know my preferred destination.” #cfc https://t.co/mtuZAXIv9A

Hazard's "preferred destination" could well be Real Madrid, after the Spanish giants were once again linked with the winger recently. Los Blancos are ready to offer as much as £150 million for the gifted No. 10, according to Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail.

Barlow noted how Real want to replace left-sided forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who signedfor Juventus on Tuesday.

Former Chelsea man Brian Laudrup believes Hazard is ready to move to the Spanish capital. Laudrup told Sportske Novosti (h/t Goal's Robin Bairner): "I spoke to Eden Hazard a few days ago; he is preparing for a move to Real Madrid, and it is a good move both for him and for Real."

The timing of such a move may be right since Chelsea welcomed a new manager on Saturday, appointing ex-Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri on a three-year contract, per Jack deMenezes of The Independent.

Hazard addressed Sarri's arrival but appeared to put the ball firmly in the new man's court to help him reach his goals:

Kristof Terreur 📰 @HLNinEngeland

Eden Hazard: "We knew already for a while that Sarri was going to become the new manager. If he's a good manager? If he lets me win trophies, yes. Dries Mertens has told me he's a good coach. We'll have to work hard. The Italian way, but we were used to that with Antonio too."

Sarri may naturally see Hazard as a player he can build around, since the 27-year-old possesses the technique, flair and eye for goal ideal for an attacking, possession-based style.

It's how Napoli played on Sarri's watch, but he could quickly lose his best player if Real are serious about getting their man. Not everybody would begrudge Hazard moving on, even though the Blues could use their star man while they embark on a new project:

Jamie Wilkinson @parkedthebus

Eden Hazard is not the type to push through a move away from Chelsea, but we ought to grant him one, assuming Real Madrid are prepared to stump up the cash. He's one of our best ever. Stuck with us through the bad and provided us with the good. Let's give him this move.

Hazard sounds keen, having recently told beIN Sports (h/t ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan) how Zinedine Zidane stepping down as manager hasn't altered his desire to pull on a shirt for Los Merengues: "Does Real make me dream less without Zidane? Zidane is someone special, it's true, but I think Real is everyone's dream."

Real may be dreaming of what their team can become with Hazard's artistry added to the forward line, especially after the way he's impressed in Russia:

ITV Football @itvfootball

👏👏👏 @hazardeden10 Since 1966, no player has been involved in more @BelRedDevils @FIFAWorldCup goals than Hazard (7, 3 goals and 4 assists), level with Jan Ceulemans (4 goals, 3 assists) #BEL #WorldCup https://t.co/2KvKV061H4

If Real face competition, it could come from bitter enemy Barcelona, with Hazard reportedly open to joining the Blaugrana, per Sport (h/t the Daily Star's Callum Vurley).

However, Goal's Nizaar Kinsella isn't convinced Barca will be able to match Real's intent:

Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella

I don't think Barcelona can easily afford either Hazard or Kante, given wages plus transfer fee. Real Madrid and PSG are more capable of pulling off those deals at the moment. #CFC

It's clear Hazard faces having his pick of some of Europe's biggest clubs should he press home his desire to leave Chelsea.

The Blues should be reluctant about letting their chief creative force move on, but the money may be too good to resist for a club set to rebuild without UEFA Champions League football this season while plans for a new, bigger stadium remain on hold.