Maurizio Sarri believes Chelsea cannot afford to lose Eden Hazard.
Hazard’s first-half wonder goal set Chelsea en route to a 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgium star also bagging a late second.
West Ham’s fans taunted Chelsea by singing “He’s off to Madrid”, with the Blues’ board apparently holding out for £100million from Real to complete a transfer this summer.
Hazard’s contract expires next year, and while the 28-year-old claims he is undecided on his long-term future, Chelsea boss Sarri feels the Blues must continue to fight to retain their prize asset.
Asked if Chelsea can afford to lose Hazard, Sarri replied: “From the technical point of view, no, not at the moment.
“It’s impossible to find another Hazard; at the moment there isn’t another Hazard. The level is so high. In the world you can’t find another player like that.
“So I hope that Hazard can stay here, otherwise we have to try something different.”
In the 24th minute, Hazard scored a goal of the rarest quality as he waltzed his past five West Ham players before drilling Chelsea into the lead in west London.
The former Lille playmaker then buried a second at the death as Chelsea stepped up to third in the Premier League table, although playing a game more than Champions League qualification rivals Tottenham and Arsenal.
Chelsea head coach Sarri is convinced the Blues are doing all they can to hold onto Hazard, however, he did concede the player himself will have the final say on his destination.
“I am sure the club doesn’t want to sell him,” Sarri said. “”But of course we all have to respect his decision.
“He’s in the last season of his contract. If he wants to have another experience we have to respect it but we will try in any way to convince him. But it’s not easy.”
When asked if Hazard has told him he wants to leave, Sarri added: “No. He told me that he has to decide.”
Hazard has now equalled his best goals tally for a single season for Chelsea, scoring 19 in all competitions. After branding his stunning opener “special”, Hazard insisted he still has not made a decision over whether to join Real Madrid.
“They are wrong! I am focused on Chelsea until the end of the season,” Hazard told Sky Sports, when asked about the Hammers’ fans claiming he would head to Real this summer.
“I want to finish in the top four and in the Europa League. We still have a lot to do, and then we will see.”
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Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos insists Arsenal do not have a mental issue with their away form but accepts they have to be more competitive if they want to break their woeful run.
The Gunners slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Everton as they conceded in a 15th consecutive top-flight away game for the first time since February 1985.
They have won just once on the road in the league, at relegated Huddersfield, since late November but Sokratis denied it was becoming something of a mental hurdle.
“I don’t think so because if you see big teams like Man United and Chelsea they also lost a lot of points,” he said.
“It is very difficult. We are in the Premier League and the other teams are strong.
“I don’t have a reason. Other teams are the same, some days good, some days bad. We have to improve and look towards the next game.
“But I think we didn’t have the same fight (as Everton) so we didn’t win a lot of battles and we conceded a goal which was a little bit easy.”
The fight for a top-four place remains in their own hands but they will have to do without Sokratis for the away game at Watford and the visit of Crystal Palace as a 10th booking of the season means he will serve a two-match suspension.
“Of course (it is frustrating). I like to play every game, to be there to help the team but it is not in my hands,” he added.
“I hope that Laurent Koscielny (injured for the trip to Goodison Park) is coming back.
“We need to win at least another four games and then we will see if we are in the top four.”
Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil threw his jacket towards Everton boss Marco Silva and his coaching staff following a touchline confrontation during his side’s Premier League defeat at Goodison Park.
The incident occurred in the 83rd minute when Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was scythed down by Shkodran Mustafi near the dugout area.
The Arsenal defender was booked as both managers argued with each other about what had happened.
When Gunners boss Unai Emery confronted Silva, Ozil – who had been substituted with 16 minutes remaining – hurled his jacket in the general direction of the argument.
However, any ill-feeling appeared to be forgotten at the final whistle as the two managers smiled and chatted after shaking hands.
Asked for clarification on the incident, Silva told Sky Sports: “We had a moment during the game…football is emotional, he wants the best for his team and I want the best for my team also.
“I said the best of luck in the rest of the matches.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s chances of securing a top-four finish in the Premier League were dealt a blow by the 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.
The Gunners struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the match, with Ozil substituted as they chased the game, but Emery’s side remain fourth and level on 63 points with fifth-placed Chelsea, who play West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
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