Eden Hazard, one of the most desirable transfer targets in world football at the moment, says he is not moving this January. Definitively. Moving this coming summer, however? That's on - fo sho. To England? Why yes, actually.
Excuse me while I shit my pants with potential excitement.
Seeking a new challenge - in the summer
Hazard spoke to Canal+ today and shed some light on his current situation. His first point of discussion was to clarify his stance on jumping ship before this Tuesday.
Not going to happen, Hazard says:
It's impossible for me to leave in January. As I said, I will finish the season at Lille, [as] we can still win a title.
Makes sense. I don't think many of us, even the most optimistic of supporters, actually thought we were going to be able to pry Hazard away from Lille this season. Not with the French club in a dogfight to qualify for the Champions League next season.
This summer, though? It's time for a change of scenery. Start queuing up elite European clubs. Well, actually, let me rephrase: Start queuing up elite English clubs.
I have [played in] over 100 Ligue 1 matches, I'm young but I want to know anything else. Paris is tempting with the players there now but I prefer to go abroad. I think I'm heading to England, the style of play suits me there and I think it's in this league that I can learn as much. We know the great English clubs. It will be a club where I'm sure to play with a play style that suits me.
He apparently went on to drop a few hints in terms of his possible destination:
I don't know for which club I'll sign yet. Manchester, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are all great.
No Liverpool? I like him even more now. Kidding aside, it does look like we have an excellent shot at landing this kid in the summer, particularly when looking at our alleged competition for his signature.
Tottenham appears to be a distant option, what with Spurs already featuring the likes of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale. They also will be more focused on securing a striking option in the summer - with Emmanuel Adebayor returning to Manchester City at the end of his loan - and are not known to have the ability to spend the kind of cash that we all assume it's going to take to land Hazard. City, meanwhile, have the money to land him and the money to set him up for life. What they can't offer, however, is guaranteed first-team football. Not with Samir Nasri, David Silva, Adam Johnson, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and whomever else you want to throw in there taking up spots on that talent-laden roster.
Neighbors Manchester United have three excellent attacking wingers already in Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani. They also are apparently desperately short on dough - though that can be disputed. Arsenal could find a place in their starting XI for Hazard without question. The problem for them is cash, of which they do seem to have quite a bit but choose not to spend it all in one place. I very much doubt they would be a factor in the Hazard market considering the competition (i.e., transfer fees and wages). I mean, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Arsenal suddenly decide to make it rain, but I can't see it.
That leaves Chelsea. We have the money to spend; we also have an opening in our starting XI for the player. Plus, you know, not only are we in the midst of rebuilding a team - making Hazard a potential cornerstone of the new era - but we also are in the midst of building a nice Belgian contingent at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard was apparently pried about a potential move to Chelsea by Christophe Dugarry on Canal, but remained coy.
"I bet it's Chelsea," Dugarry said. Hazard responded: "Well, you're free to place your bets."
This brings me to my headline. On this evidence, why not attempt to agree a deal now and loan him back to Lille for the rest of the season? If I were Michael Emenalo and had heard this interview, I would already be in France looking to tie the 21-year-old down long term. Borussia Dortmund already pulled off a similar deal with Borussia Mönchengladbach for the young German phenom Marco Reus. I see no reason why we can't at least try to do the same.
We should probably temper our expectations (see Javier Pastore), but it's difficult not to get excited about the possibility of Hazard lighting up the flanks at Stamford Bridge. As always, we'll keep you posted as this one develops.