CHELSEA have given the clearest indication yet that they are ready to sell Eden Hazard after setting his transfer fee at £98.5million, it has been claimed.
Hazard’s future at Stamford Bridge is in major doubt as he stalls on signing a new deal with the club to replace his existing contract which runs out at the end of next season.
Real Madrid have long been linked with a move for the Belgium captain and reports in HLN claim Chelsea have now reached the point of setting an asking price for their star player.
But the London club have been given a dire warning from Graeme Souness that their ability to challenge for trophies will be over if they let the 28-year-old leave.
The article in the Belgian title suggests Real have spoken with Chelsea about the possibility of striking a deal for Hazard over the close season.
And for the first time it looks as though the Premier League club have moved to a position where they are entertaining the prospect of an agreement.
It says the Blues will not even consider a bid below £98.5m, believing his value is similar to the £105m it took for Juventus to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real last year.
I don’t think they will be winning trophies in the immediate future
Graeme Souness on Chelsea
But whether the La Liga giants are willing to go to such an amount remains to be seen, with the club frantically trying to put together their summer transfer plans.
There remains an interest from president Florentino Perez in trying to pull off a huge deal to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain – and while that persists it would appear Hazard is playing second fiddle.
They have so far been unwilling to pay the kind of money Chelsea would be looking for to push through a deal.
The problem for Chelsea is that if they allow Hazard to enter the last year of his contract, there is every chance he would leave for nothing the following summer, which would be a huge financial problem.
If the winger makes it clear he will not be signing a new contract, the Blues will be left with little option but to cash in over the close season to at least get some money for him.
Yet such a prospect could spell major trouble for the club’s ability to seriously compete in the Premier League and in Europe, according to Souness.
Latest Chelsea news
He told Sky Sports: “If you are Hazard, you are one of the best players in the world, and you are thinking I’m now arguably at the peak of my career and I want to be winning the big trophies. Will that happen at Chelsea? I don’t think so.
“They look like they will struggle to get into the top four. Chelsea have a big decision to make, do they cash in or let him walk in 15 months?
“It’s difficult times ahead for Chelsea. I think there’s a big sea change in how they see things going forward. I don’t think they will be winning trophies in the immediate future.”