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Eden engineers dramatic departure

China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-31 09:35
Eden Hazard scores Chelsea's fourth goal during Wednesday's 4-1 Europa League final victory over Arsenal at Baku Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan. [Photo/REUTERS]

Madrid-linked Hazard all but confirms Chelsea exit after brilliantly bamboozling Arsenal in Europa League finale

Eden Hazard said he's "ready for a new challenge" after playing a starring role in Chelsea's 4-1 Europa League final victory over Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday.

The Belgian playmaker showed why he's at the top of Real Madrid's summer shopping list with two goals, including one from the penalty spot, and an assist to pick apart the hapless Gunners.

He hugged teammates and waved to Blues fans at the final whistle, and afterward strongly hinted he had played his last game in a Chelsea shirt.

"I think it's a goodbye, but in football you never know. My dream was to play in the Premier League and I did this for seven years for one of the biggest clubs in the world. So now maybe it's time for a new challenge," said Hazard, who also won the Europa League in 2013 with the west Londoners, as well two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and one League Cup.

"I've made my decision already. Now it depends on the club. I'm just waiting like the fans wait, so you will know in a couple of days," the 28-year-old added.

"My target today was to win the trophy. That's it... the only thing that was on my mind."

Sarri uncertainty

Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri is also reportedly headed for the Stamford Bridge exit door, with Juventus anxious for him to replace outgoing Massimiliano Allegri.

That speculation was racheted up a notch after Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck was spotted meeting with Juve counterpart Andrea Agnelli in the club's team hotel before the game.

Italian outlet Tuttosport said the pair also met to discuss Sarri's future, and that the Serie A champion is increasingly confident of luring the 60-year-old former Napoli manager back to Italy this summer.

Sarri said he wanted to meet with Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich-who missed most games this season due to British visa issues but was in Baku for the final-or director Marina Granovskaia to discuss his future.

"The season finished one hour ago so tomorrow I will begin to speak with my club, to the owner, to the director, or Marina, I don't know," said the Italian, who celebrated by smoking a huge cigar on the pitch.

"We need to know what the club can do for me, what I can do better for the club. I need to speak but I also think the club needs to speak with me."

Reflecting on his debut season in English soccer, Sarri added: "Of course the trophy is very important because we were in trouble in January and February and then we reacted.

"It is not easy to do that in the Premier League because the level is really very high.

"In the end we got into the Champions League, we played the final of the League Cup and lost on penalties to Manchester City. In the Europa League we played 15 matches and won 12 and drew three, so I think we deserved to win it."

Despite Chelsea's joy, the match was underwhelming, with the atmosphere inside Baku Olympic Stadium struggling to equal that of a typical European final.

There appeared to be several thousand empty seats and only around 6,000 fans traveled from England.

After a dour first half, former Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock just after the restart before Pedro put the Blues in control.

Alex Iwobi's strike either side of Hazard's brace was scant consolation for Arsenal, which bade farewell to retiring 37-year-old goalkeeper Petr Cech.

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