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Reject Real Madrid offer for Hazard & what else Chelsea must do to win Champions League

May 13, 2017 7:26 AM
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Reject Real Madrid offer for Hazard & what else Chelsea must do to win Champions League

Alexis Sanchez likes living in London. He also wants to play for a "winning" team. So, signing the Arsenal attacker should be little more than a formality for Chelsea, right?..

Unfortunately, persuading the Gunners to part company with their star man will be easier said than done. Alexis has been the one shining light in an otherwise gloomy campaign for Arsene Wenger's side, with the Chile international having become the first Arsenal player since Robin van Persie to score 20 goals or more in a single Premier League season.

Of course, there's hope in there for Chelsea because the Gunners sold Van Persie to Manchester United on the back of his 30-goal haul in 2011-12 because the prolific but ambitious Dutchman only had a year left on his contract. They are in the same unenviable situation with Alexis.

Wenger insists that the former Barcelona man will be retained even if he does not extend a contract that expires in 2018 but logic - or perhaps more importantly, the market - dictates that a precious commodity must be sold before its value depreciates to zero.

Arsenal will try to sell Alexis oversees - and both Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain are interested - but Chelsea can offer him a genuine shot at winning the Champions League without having to leave a city in which he himself says he is "happy".

Given he only has a year remaining on his contract, Alexis would prove a bargain no matter what the eventual fee, given he is at the peak of his powers, the kind of tenacious attacker that Conte loves and is versatile enough to play alongside a true centre-forward.

Also read: Real Madrid reveal why Lopetegui’s appointment was announced before World Cup

Diego Costa has played an integral role in Chelsea's title triumph, netting 20 league goals, as well as leading the line to great effect, even during the drought he experienced following a January transfer window dominated by rumours that he was ready to accept a money-spinning move to the Chinese Super League.

The suspicion that the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard wants to take the money and run has never gone away, though, and Chelsea would be foolish to turn down a lucrative offer from the Far East for a player who will turn 29 later this year. And Abramovich did not build a financial empire in Russia by failing to capitalise on obvious opportunities to make easy money.

The funds raised by letting another Blue depart for China would enable Chelsea to invest heavily in a younger, more talented forward. Romelu Lukaku ranks high on Chelsea's wanted list but the Belgium international would simply not be worth the enormous fee that Everton will demand.

Granted, Lukaku is a fine forward. He is not the Premier League's top scorer for nothing. But for perhaps two-thirds of the mooted £80m fee, Chelsea could instead get their hands on Alvaro Morata.

Lukaku and Morata are both 24 but only one has already proven himself capable of scoring against the best sides in the biggest competitions - and it is not the striker plying his trade at Goodison Park.

What truly sets Morata apart, though, is his remarkable strike rate, even when restricted to limited game time. He has scored 15 times in La Liga this term, despite only being afforded 13 starts, averaging a goal every 83.6 minutes. By contrast, Lukaku's goals-to-minutes ratio is 132.4.

Morata is lethal - his shot conversion rate is better than anyone in Spain, including top scorer Lionel Messi - and Conte knows this. It was the Italian, after all, who persuaded Morata to join Juve in the summer of 2014.

Also read: Julen Lopetegui: Real Madrid break silence, reveal next action

The Spaniard has never forgotten this. He has served under Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Massimiliano Allegri and Zinedine Zidane yet says that the coach who invested the most faith in him is the one for whom he has never played.

Morata says that will change "sooner or later". Chelsea should ensure it is the former and, at the same time...

The obvious danger in entering into any negotiations with Real Madrid for Morata is that the European champions would doubtless bring up Eden Hazard. Real coach has never hidden his admiration for Hazard, publicly enthusing as far back as 2015, "I love the player."

The worry for Chelsea fans is that the feeling is mutual. "When I was little, I watched Zidane on television and the internet for hours," Hazard revealed. "I talked Zidane and I ate Zidane!"

The Belgian would clearly relish the opportunity to play under his childhood hero and Real are always looking to sign a new Galactico - now more so than ever, given Gareth Bale is constantly injured.

However, Hazard is not the stereotypical footballer. He is driven neither by fame or fortune. He is a quiet, reserved character whose primary focus is on looking after his family and they are presently settled and happy in London.

Hazard looks highly unlikely to push for a transfer in such circumstances, making Chelsea's task in holding on to him all the more straightforward, particularly now that he has rediscovered his very best form under Conte and is part of a winning team once more.

Also read: Zidane finally reveals why he quit as Real Madrid manager

Whether Jurgen Klopp is right that "luck" played a part in Chelsea avoiding injuries to key players during their title-winning campaign is open to debate. What is beyond dispute, though, is that the Blues squad will be more rigorously tested next season when they return to European competition. Consequently, it is imperative that they deepen their pool of talent.

With Asmir Begovic set to depart for Bournemouth, Chelsea are looking for a new back-up goalkeeper. Centre-halves Virgil van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte, Kalidou Koulibaly and Antonio Rudiger are all under consideration to strengthen the back-line, while Michail Antonio is the desired target to provide an excellent alternative out wide.

However, retaining the services of certain fringe players will prove just as integral to Conte's hopes of challenging for the Champions League. Cesc Fabregas and Willian would find a starting berth in most top-six sides and both are well aware of this.

Neither will be content to spend most of their time on the bench next season but Conte needs to convince them that they will see far more game time given the demands of fighting on two fronts.

It'll be tough job. Just like winning with style in Europe. But Conte is more than capable of making it happen.


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