Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has urged the club to “solve the problem” of Eden Hazard’s future, amid speculation that the Belgian winger will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.
Hazard, who has one-and-a-half years remaining on his Chelsea deal, said he will not make a decision on his long-term future until the end of the campaign, which did nothing to stop the persistent rumours linking him to Real Madrid.
Asked what he thought Hazard would do, Sarri told a news conference on Friday: “I don’t know. I speak to him only about the position on the pitch. But I think that it’s time to decide.
“I think we have to solve the problem. If we want to plan the future, we have to solve this problem.”
Hazard boasts a hand in 19 Premier League goals this season, more than any other player, and was again on the scoresheet with a brace in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Watford on Boxing Day.
While Hazard prefers to play on the wing, Sarri has used him in a central “false-nine” role during the last few matches and may do so again for Sunday’s trip to Crystal Palace.
With strikers Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata struggling to score on a regular basis, the Italian manager expects Hazard to shoulder most of the goalscoring responsibility.
“He played four matches as false number nine, and he scored three goals and two assists,” Sarri said.
“I am really very happy with him in this position, because he’s very able to score, first of all, but he’s very able to open spaces for the team mates, to come and play with the team mates.
“But in the future he can also play as a winger of course.”
Sarri also ruled out Pedro for at least 10 days with a hamstring problem.
The Spanish forward picked up the injury in the first half at Vicarage Road and was replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has been nursing a hamstring problem of his own and was taken off in the 85th minute.
“We have two problems, the first more serious with Pedro,” Sarri said. “A hamstring injury and I think that he will have to rest for about 10 days.
“The second problem was Odoi, it’s not as serious but I don’t think he will play in the next match.”