Maurizio Sarri: It's time to decide Eden Hazard's future
Maurizio Sarri has said it's "time to decide" Eden Hazard's future as speculation rumbles on about whether the Belgian will stay at Chelsea or leave for Real Madrid at the end of the season.
Chelsea are desperate to keep Hazard, who passed the 100-goal mark for the club by netting twice in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Watford, and sources have told ESPN FC that they are prepared to pay him more than N'Golo Kante's £290,000-a-week package if he agrees to sign an extension.
Hazard, however, has repeatedly stated that he will wait until the end of the season -- when he enters the final year of his current contract -- before deciding his future, and Sarri has grown exasperated with facing constant questions on the subject.
"I don't know [if he will stay] but I think it's time to decide," Sarri said of Hazard on Friday. "I have not the power to do this. I am the coach, not the president, I'm not in charge of the market.
"I'm the coach. I want to speak to him only about the position on the pitch. [But] I think we have to solve the problem if we want to [plan] the future. We have to solve this problem."
After the Watford game Hazard pointedly stated that he prefers playing as a winger to the false nine role that Sarri has given him in the last four Premier League matches but the Italian added that he will continue to deploy his superstar in the position that best helps Chelsea on the pitch.
"He is able to play as a winger, he is able to play in the centre of the pitch," Sarri insisted. "I'm really very happy with him in this position because he is very able to score, but I think he is very able to open spaces for teammates, he is able to come to play with the teammates.
"I'm really very happy with him in this role. I don't know if he prefers to play as a winger or a striker, but if he is able to play like in the last match in the centre it is for me not a problem to put him in the centre.
"I cannot see the problem of Hazard in this role. He played four matches as false nine and scored three goals and [three] assists. I'm not able to see the problem."
Asked if Hazard is now his preferred option up front ahead of Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata -- who was omitted from the match day squad against Watford for tactical reasons despite being fit -- Sarri hinted that he will persist with the strategy against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
"It depends on the moment," he explained. "In this moment we need to be solid, and with Hazard in this position I think we can become more solid. It's a good option for the defensive phase, I think, but it depends on the moment.
"Maybe in the future we will be able to play with Hazard and a striker together. It's not a big problem for us, I think."
Chelsea will be without Pedro Rodriguez and Callum Hudson-Odoi against Palace after both men picked up hamstring injuries during the Watford game. Sarri expects the Spaniard to miss around 10 days, while the academy prospect's issue is less serious and he should return to training next week.