LONDON — Antonio Conte has said that it is “impossible” for him to guarantee that Eden Hazard will be at Chelsea next season, but remains confident that the Belgium international is happy and settled at Stamford Bridge.
Real Madrid have reportedly made Hazard a prime transfer target this summer, and speculation in Spain has claimed that the 26-year-old has already indicated that he wants a move to the Spanish capital.
Hazard has stopped short of committing his long-term future to Chelsea when offered the chance to do so, and earlier this week revealed that he will not hold talks with the club about a potential contract extension until the end of the season.
Asked if he could guarantee that Hazard will stay, Conte told a news conference: “I think that it’s impossible for me to take this responsibility — not only for Eden but for every single player. In this situation it’s the club who have the final decision. I can say my opinion about this situation, but I repeat: the club has the final word about this situation. I think it’s right, this.
“He’s a great player. He has great talent. I think, this season, he improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also, I think, he’s becoming stronger, mentally stronger. At this level it’s very important to try to [make] this step because it brings you up to the best players in the world. I think that Eden is starting to do this step.”
Hazard has rediscovered his best form under Conte this season, contributing 15 goals and five assists in 31 Premier League appearances to help propel Chelsea to the brink of a second Premier League title in three years, and he is considered one of the frontrunners to win the FWA Footballer of the Year award.
Conte intends to significantly strengthen Chelsea’s squad this summer in preparation for a return to the Champions League next season and does not believe selling Hazard is part of the club’s plans.
“I don’t think that this idea is in the mind of the club,” he added. “I think we have to improve the team, to reinforce the team. You know that in football there is also the will of the player. But I think, also Eden is very happy to stay in Chelsea, to stay with us and work with us. Yes. I can say this. But the future… I haven’t a crystal ball, no.”
Asked if he is surprised that Chelsea are yet to approach Hazard with the offer of a lucrative new contract, Conte said: “No, I’m not surprised because, I repeat, I think Eden is very happy to stay with us and work with us. I think his family is very happy to stay here and play for this team, for this club. The fans love him and I think there are a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and to try to reach the best with this club.”