No guarantees Eden Hazard will be staying, admits Antonio Conte

Everton v Chelsea: Antonio Conte has admitted he cannot guarantee Eden Hazard will be a Chelsea player next season, amid persistent interest from Real Madrid.

No guarantees Eden Hazard will be staying, admits Antonio Conte

Belgium playmaker Hazard has hit 15 Premier League goals this term to drag Chelsea to the brink of the title. The 26-year-old has flourished under the taskmaster Italian after a dismal campaign last term, being branded by fans one of the “rats” partly responsible for Jose Mourinho’s sacking.

Hazard’s resurgence has Real on high alert, but Conte still believes Chelsea do not want to sell and the Belgian himself is content with life at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if he could guarantee Hazard would be at Chelsea next term, Conte replied: “I think that it’s impossible for me to take this responsibility. Not only for Eden, but for every single player. In this situation, the club has the final decision.

“I can tell my opinion about this situation, but the club has the final word about this situation. I think this is right. I don’t think that this idea (to sell Hazard) is in the mind of the club.

“Because I think that we have to improve the team; reinforce the team. But you know that in football there is also the will of the player.

“I think also Eden is very happy to stay in Chelsea, to stay with us, to work with us. I can tell this but I don’t have a crystal ball for the future. I think anything is possible in football. But not only for Eden but for every single player.

“Everything is possible, because you must understand there are different wills to compare, and to take the decision.”

Chelsea can rubber-stamp Champions League qualification by picking up any points at Everton tomorrow, while a win would edge Conte’s side ever closer to the league title. And the former Juventus boss would love to have Hazard in his ranks for an all-out assault on the Champions League next term.

“He’s a great player, he has great talent, but I think this season he has improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also I think that he’s becoming stronger mentally. And I think this level is very important to try to have this next step.

“Because this step brings you to the best players in the world. And I think that Eden is starting to take this step.”

Meanwhile Everton boss Ronald Koeman admits he is still unsure where striker Romelu Lukaku will be playing next season.

Lukaku has scored 25 goals for the Toffees this term and has been linked with a move away from Goodison Park, most frequently to former club Chelsea.

With Koeman recently saying the Belgian did not want to sign a new contract with the club, there has been speculation Everton could cash in this summer. Koeman, however, says the situation is currently unclear.

He said: “I don’t know. We will see what happens at the end of the season.”

Lukaku will be the focus of a lot of attention this weekend as he comes up against Chelsea. The 23-year-old joined the London club in 2011 but failed to establish himself and was loaned out to West Brom and Everton before moving to Goodison permanently for £28million three years ago.

Some reports have claimed Chelsea might have to pay a world record £100million to take him back to Stamford Bridge.

Regardless of who the opponents are, Koeman expects Lukaku to want to impress after a disappointing display in last weekend’s goalless draw at West Ham.

Asked if playing the Premier League leaders might affect Lukaku negatively, Koeman said: “I don’t know. We will see. Normally not. The players always like to show the best of themselves.”

Koeman feels there is a collective responsibility for all the players to produce a better performance.

Seventh-placed Everton could clinch a place in the Europa League this weekend - possibly without even kicking a ball if West Brom fail to beat Leicester.

Koeman said: “Maybe we need to change our mentality a bit because I felt a bit less intensity in the game last week, maybe a bit less motivation.

“It is always difficult if you have already the seventh position in the pocket and maybe they get a little bit more holiday or end-of-season feeling.

“That is what I don’t like. We like to keep momentum at home, we are strong at home and we know what we need (to do) to face the best team of the Premier League.”

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