190313 Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard Image Credit: AFP

London: Eden Hazard’s resolve to move to Real Madrid at the end of the season has been strengthened by Zinedine Zidane’s reappointment as manager at the Bernabeu, with the reigning European champions having finally formalised their pursuit of the Belgium captain.

Real firmed up their long-mooted interest in Hazard just before confirming Zidane’s return, with an opening proposal understood to have been lodged with Chelsea. The 28-year-old will have a year of his contract to run in the summer and has given no indication to the board that he would be willing to sign the improved terms, worth £300,000 (Dh1.45 million) a week, that have been on the table for some time.

The player’s reluctance to sign a new contract will eventually force Chelsea’s hand over a sale, though negotiations could still prove protracted given the Premier League club will seek around £100 million for the forward. Hazard cost £32 million when signing from Lille in 2012.

The Belgian’s admiration for Zidane is well established and his desire to play for Real is also long-standing, with Chelsea having already fended off informal interest in each of the past three years.

There are fears growing in France, too, Paris St-Germain’s goal machine Kylian Mbappe could join Zidane in Madrid.

In an interview with a French football show on Sunday, Mbappe, 20, announced that he had no intention of leaving the Ligue 1 side and said he would be at PSG for the 2019-2020 season.

However, the return of Mbappe’s idol, Zidane, 46, to the Bernabeu has left the French press tense with speculation.

“Hazard and Mbappe targeted,” was the headline L’Equipe on Tuesday. The paper added that picking up Mbappe could be just what Madrid need after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Italian giant Juventus.

Meanwhile, Le Parisien bemoaned “The return of Zidane is anything but good news for PSG.”

The French daily also said a Zidane-led Madrid could make a move for PSG forward Neymar.

— Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2019