Football

Hazard keeps Premier League elite on alert

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Eden Hazard is possibly the most wanted man in world football.

The Belgian playmaker has been linked with most, if not all of European football's biggest and best clubs - much like Brazilian striker Neymar and Sao Paulo starlet Lucas Moura.

Unlike the two samba stars, Hazard is much closer to home for Premier League clubs to monitor, something Chelsea scout Guy Hillion has been doing for manager Andre Villas-Boas.

"I must have watched Hazard more than 20 times for Chelsea. I've written a 100 per cent positive report every time," the Blues' French scout told The Sun today.

"If Eden joins a big European club he will get even stronger."

Under AVB, Chelsea have quickly adopted a philosophy of bringing youth talent to Stamford Bridge in an effort to build for the future. Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne are three examples of this.

At 21, Hazard would add further to the club's credentials as the team to watch in the future, although success this season could be key to keeping AVB in a job as they battle for a place in the top four and a return to the Champions League next season.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has also expressed an interest in the Lille star, telling a French publication that the player has 'enormous talent', and that his club are braced for a transfer battle in an effort to secure Hazard's services.

"Hazard has an enormous level of talent and is able to play at the maximum level," the Italian told Le 10 Sport.

"But we know there is interest from the big European clubs and any deal will not be easy."

His move away from Ligue 1 would appear to be one of football's worst kept secrets, with the player admitting last weekend that he was leaning towards England as a place where he can learn the most and develop his skills.

Hazard helped Les Dogues to the domestic crown last season, and Rudi Garcia's side are once again involved in the title shake-up this season.

"I still have lots of things to do with Lille, we could win one or two trophies," he told French TV in relation to this season.

"After thinking about my next move, I'm leaning towards England. It's a style of play that suits me and it's there that you can learn the most. I want to play for a big club, but also one where I will play every week.

"I've played more than 100 games in Ligue 1 so I would prefer to go abroad. I want to discover something new and playing abroad is a conscious decision."

Agent John Bico has been touting Hazard's services for some time now, and admitted in mid-january that Manchester United would be a 'great opportunity for any player, including his own client.

"It all depends on the project put to Eden and the ambition he senses from whoever he is talking to. Real Madrid like him, and he likes them but, as with any player, he would view Manchester United as a great opportunity," the Daily Mail reported Bico as saying.

Sir Alex Ferguson has never personally been drawn on whether the Red Devils would want to take Hazard from the Stade Lille-Metropole, but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal were monitoring his progress in the past.

Speaking 12 months ago, the Frenchman admitted that the Gunners were tracking Hazard, and were eager to make his 'dream' come true amidst quotes suggesting the player wanted to move to the Emirates Stadium.

"Let us try to make his dream come true. We are following him," said Wenger last January.

"Personally I think he has real talent and the level needed to play at Arsenal, but in the offensive department we have many players. At the end of the season we'll have a look at the situation."

Never far from transfer talk, Liverpool have also been linked with a move, and Joe Cole could be their bargaining chip should Kenny Dalglish decide to pursue the player.

Lille President Michel Seydoux opened the door to a permanent move for Cole whilst suggesting Hazard could leave at the same time, but then put a huge price-tag on his prized asset.

"Cole is becoming an important member of our team, and even though he is currently Liverpool’s player, it is not a certainty that he will leave us again at the end his [loan] contract," said Seydoux.

"We would like to keep Hazard too, and if he still sees a challenge here, then he could stay. It's probable, though, that he will leave the club after this season, as there’s plenty of interest.

"Will €50million be enough? Nobody is irreplaceable and there are solutions for that kind of money."

Whilst that figure is probably unrealistic, the general consensus is that Hazard will demand a substantial figure. Whilst the Reds spent big last January, they are likely to be priced out of a move. The same is arguably going to be true for Arsenal as well.

Their inability to guarantee Champions League football is another stumbling block, and could also lead to Chelsea missing out on the player. If they can secure fourth place in the Premier League, then a move to Stamford Bridge would seem like a great fit.

If not, then Manchester City are perfectly poised to pounce. They have the financial might, and if Hazard can be convinced that he'll get minutes on the pitch at the Etihad Stadium, it would appear to be a good fit.

As for United, manager Ferguson always keeps his cards close to his chest, but the player holds similar characteristics to Wesley Sneijder, who was close to a move to Old Trafford in the summer, and could be of interest.

With four months to go until the end of the season, we'll have to wait to bring an end to this particular transfer saga.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Manchester City
Chelsea
Premier League
Manchester United
Liverpool

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