Maurizio Sarri warns Chelsea they must sort out Eden Hazard's future as soon as possible
Maurizio Sarri has broken ranks for the first time in his Chelsea reign by issuing an ultimatum to the board over Eden Hazard's future, and insisting that Cesc Fabregas cannot be sold in January unless a like-for-like replacement is signed.
Hazard this week revealed he is willing to wait until the end of the season before deciding whether to sign a new Chelsea contract worth more than £300,000 a week.
The Belgian is waiting to find out whether Real Madrid will make a move to sign him at the end of the season. He has 18 months remaining on his deal, but head coach Sarri has said that now is the time for Chelsea and Hazard to make a decision.
Asked what he thought Hazard would do, Sarri said: “I don't know, but I think that it's time to decide.”
Chelsea have been trying to convince Hazard to sign a new contract for the past 18 months, but Sarri claimed the club should take matters into their own hands, saying: “The club can decide for him.”
Asked whether he believed Hazard should be sold if he will not sign a new contract, Sarri said: “I don't know, but I think it's right that the club knows the future and has the chance to program the future.” Maurizio Sarri is desperate to keep Eden Hazard Credit: reuters
Sarri had not previously challenged the Chelsea board, and his insistence that Hazard's future is not his responsibility had echoes of former head coach Antonio Conte, who often reminded fans that he did not make the decisions over transfers and contracts.
It was put to Sarri that he could talk to Hazard about his future, but he said: “No, because I don't have the power to do this. I am the coach, I am not the president, I am not in charge of the market. I want to speak to him only about the position on the pitch.
“We have to solve this problem if we want to program the future.”
Asked if he would talk to owner Roman Abramovich about Hazard, Sarri said: “I don't know.”
Hazard has put pressure on Chelsea to resolve their striker crisis in January by admitting he prefers to play on the left rather than in the middle, where he has started the past four Premier League games.
Gonzalo Higuain is interested in cutting short his loan at AC Milan to join Chelsea next month. But, ahead of tomorrow's trip to Crystal Palace, Sarri suggested he would not be pressured into moving Hazard back to his favoured position. “I cannot see the problem of Hazard in this role. He played four matches and scored three goals and made two assists.”
Sarri will be without Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi tomorrow because of injury, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek is fit and the manager hinted Hazard would play through the middle again.
“I am happy with him in this role,” Sarri said. “I don't know if he prefers to play as a winger, but if he is able to play like in the last match in the centre, for me, it's not a problem to put him in the centre.”
Fabregas wants to leave Chelsea in January, having turned down a one-year extension to his contract that expires in six months.
Monaco and AC Milan are interested in the midfielder, but Sarri said: “In this position we have only two players, Jorginho and Fabregas so, for me, it would be a very big problem to be without Cesc. I want him to stay.
“I don't know the final decision of Cesc and the club. If Cesc will go, then I think we need to buy another player and it's not easy because it's very difficult to find in the market a player with these characteristics.”
Captain Gary Cahill is also entering the final six months of his Chelsea contract, but Aston Villa have shelved their interest after learning that a six-month loan deal could cost up to £4 million, including wages and a loan fee.
David Luiz is on course to leave Chelsea at the end of the season because of the club's policy to offer only one-year extensions to players aged 30 or over.
“As you know, the big problem is the duration of the new contract,” said Sarri. “The policy of the club is only to renew for one year for players over 30 years old. For a player of 31 it's a big problem to sign a new contract for only one year. The problem is only this. It's a rule, so we have to respect it.”