Europa League winners, Chelsea may be celebrating winning the UEFA second-tier competition on Wednesday night, but are concerned about the impending exit of the club’s best player, Eden Hazard.
Hazard scored twice, including a penalty, and set up another goal for Pedro Rodriguez after Olivier Giroud had set Chelsea on their way to an emphatic 4-1 win over London rivals Arsenal in the Europa League final in Azerbaijan.
Maurizio Sarri’s side deserved their victory as they won the competition for the second time in Hazard’s seven-year spell at the club.
They will be back in the Champions League next season, by which time Hazard looks set to be wearing a Real Madrid shirt.
“I have made my decision already and now I’m waiting on both clubs. I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know,” Hazard told BT Sport after the game.
The 28 year-old, whose Chelsea contract expires next year, has long been linked with Madrid and all signs point towards a transfer that could be worth in the region of 100 million euros ($111m).
“My dream was to play in the Premier League and I have done that for one of the biggest clubs so maybe now it is the time for a new challenge.”
Chelsea have known this moment was coming, but it is a huge concern for a club who are facing up to a Fifa-imposed ban on signing players in the next two transfer windows, pending an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“I have a special relationship with him on the pitch and off it. He’s a mate. I am really happy for him and for his future. We will miss him,” said Giroud.
“He deserves it too, after seven years of good and loyal service to Chelsea. He deserves a new challenge.”
Hazard will now hope to go on and win the Champions League, a trophy Chelsea lifted in 2012 just before signing the Belgian from Lille. In his time in west London, Hazard has won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and a League Cup as well as two Europa Leagues.
“I knew. I knew Eden wanted to leave, of course, but as I said in every press conference, I wanted to respect his decision,” said Sarri.