Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri says Eden Hazard is one of the top two or three players in Europe and he wants to meet Belgium forward face-to-face to discuss his future. Hazard said at the World Cup in Russia that “it might be time to discover something different” after spending the last six years with Chelsea. He has been linked with a move to European champion Real Madrid, which recently sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.
Hazard is taking time off after the World Cup along with Belgium teammate Thibaut Courtois, whose future is also the matter of some debate. Sarri says he doesn’t just want to phone the players who have yet to return to preseason training because a “telephone call without looking in their eyes will not give any certainty. I want to meet them face-to-face and understand what’s the best thing to do for everyone.”
Sarri says Hazard is “one of the top two or three European players,” adding that he hopes “to improve Hazard but that will be difficult.”
In his first news conference as Chelsea coach since joining from Napoli, Sarri said he will play in a “slightly different way” to predecessor Antonio Conte, who won the Premier League in his first season and FA Cup in his second after changing to a three-man defense.
Chelsea has already signed holding midfielder Jorginho from Napoli this offseason. Sarri says he would like more quality in the midfield area to fit his preferred approach, while adding that he could also adapt to the players he currently has in the squad. Chelsea didn’t qualify for this season’s Champions League.
Zola returns to Chelsea as Sarri’s assistant
Former Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola has returned to the club as assistant to new manager Maurizio Sarri, the Premier League side said on Wednesday. Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge as a player, scoring 80 goals and helping the club win two FA Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and one League Cup.
“For me it is an amazing thing,” Zola said in a club statement, which described the former Italy international as one of Chelsea’s “all-time greatest players”. “I am very willing to work hard because it is going to be a difficult challenge but I am pleased to be here, and to work hard with Maurizio to be successful.”
Fellow Italian Sarri was appointed last week to replace compatriot Antonio Conte, who was sacked, a year after leading the team to the title, after Chelsea failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Sarri, the 59-year-old former Napoli boss, had his first news conference on Wednesday in which he said he wanted to keep Belgian forward Eden Hazard at the club and improve him as a player.
Zola’s coaching career has seen him manage West Ham United, Watford and Italian side Cagliari. He joined Birmingham in December 2016, but quit four months later after a poor run of results.