KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Chelsea’s triumph over Arsenal in the first of the week’s two all-English European finals may also have been a goodbye for superstar forward Eden Hazard and manager Maurizio Sarri.
The Belgium forward scored twice – once from a penalty – as Chelsea secured their 16th major trophy in as many years under Roman Abramovich’s ownership. Afterwards he said he considered this his final appearance for the club.
The 28-year-old said: “I think it’s a goodbye but in football you never know. My dream was to play in the Premier League. I did this for seven years in one of the biggest clubs in the world, so now maybe it’s time for a new challenge.
“I have made my decision already. Now it is dependent on the clubs. We will know in the coming days. I’m still waiting, like you are waiting, like the fans are waiting.
“This is the perfect end. I want to say to the fans that I love them, that they are part of my family and I will always support Chelsea. If it’s a goodbye, thank you for these seven years.”
Hazard’s ambition to play for Real Madrid and also for Zinedine Zidane has been an open secret for a long time and the world club champions’ president Florentino Perez has long been an admirer.
Chelsea want more than £100m but Hazard’s contract expires next year and he has already turned down offers of an extension. Madrid have opened the bidding at £88m and a compromise is expected some time during the summer.
The Blues would welcome the cash as they make a summer dash to rebuild and strengthen their squad before having to submit to a transfer ban imposed by FIFA for a breach of rules over the signing of youth players. Chelsea have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in an attempt to delay the ban’s application this year.
The future of Sarri is also in increasing doubt. The Italian former banker was seen after the final staring in surprised delight at the first winning medal of his career. He had waited almost 30 years for this special moment after a season in which he had also taken Chelsea to third place in the Premier League and thus back into the Champions League.
But the season had been erratic. He had been criticised for a predictability of selection and tactics and failing to put enough faith in young players such as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (who both missed the final but through injury).
Sarri also suffered the humiliating defiance of keeper Kepa who refused to be substituted just before the end of the League Cup Final which Chelsea lost to Manchester City on penalties.
His relationship with the club management appears to have distant and thus he is favourite to be the No1 target for Italian champions Juventus as they seek a replacement for Max Allegri.
Time to talk
After the final whistle Sarri said: “The season is finished one hour ago. Now I have to speak to my club, like with every club at the end of the season.
“We need to know what the club can do to me and what I can do better for the club. Then in a couple of days we will decide, but I have a contract, so at the moment we’re speaking about nothing. Of course I’m happy, but I need to know if the club is happy.”
Sarri was seen angrily kicking his baseball cap up in the air during a last training session the day before the final. But at halftime, according to David Luiz, it was Sarri who his players: “Keep calm. Just keep playing your football.”
Chelsea were duly rewarded with the goals of Hazard, Olivier Giroud and Pedro. Giroud, shortly before the final, had already signed up to his own contract extension. It is ironic that the man who was only considered a short-term signing last year may out-stay Hazard and Sarri at Stamford Bridge.