I’m going to come right to the point: over the last few years, I have grown sick and tired of the same story unfolding in every transfer window. Comments made by Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois (or their agents), in the public domain, about why they’re unsettled at Chelsea. Since joining in 2012, Eden Hazard has been instrumental in Chelsea’s success – helping us to win 2 league titles, the FA Cup, League cup and Europa League. Thibaut Courtois was fan favourite Petr Cech’s replacement after he was bafflingly sold to Arsenal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing the Belgian duo’s accomplishments and achievements at the club. They have both been key to our success. What I am disputing, however, is their professionalism and loyalty to the club. Given Hazard’s status as arguably our best player, and the fact he is almost universally adored by our fans, I would expect more from him.
“I’d listen to Real Madrid”
Hazard has the form for speaking publicly about his future transfers. When deciding which club to join in 2012, he conducted himself in dramatic fashion, leading the frenzied media on a drawn-out wild goose chase, flirting with the possibility of joining various clubs. He finally announced his destination in an over-the-top fashion, taking to Twitter to state that he would be joining “The Champions of Europe”, Chelsea, after they had just won the Champions League.
At the time, one might have written it off as a young player excited about the media attention he was getting. He got his head down and did his job for the club for a while, until whispers of Real Madrid possibly coming knocking started circulating. In 2017, whilst speaking to the Belgian Het Laatste Nieuws paper, he said “We all have dreams. It could be Spain, it could be staying with Chelsea. But it’s not something I’m thinking about right now. We’ll see. If I would ever join Real Madrid, I could end up on the bench too. I just want the best solution for myself”.
Surely at that stage in his career, the best solution was staying at a club where fans adore you? At the time, I dismissed his comments as being at best misguided, and at worst mildly disrespectful. I’m a staunch believer that this kind of conversation should be had behind closed doors with the club, not spoken about to the press.
It gets worse
After rumours of unrest between Antonio Conte and Hazard, which were alleged to be a catalyst for the Belgian moving to Spain, Conte was eventually sacked. Prior to this, Hazard spoke publicly about his potential transfer out of Stamford Bridge and said he’d wait to see who Chelsea signed this transfer window before making the decision to stay or not. Chelsea are alleged to have been desperate to make some big signings, in a frenzied bid to keep him at the club.
When did Abramovich lose his backbone? He’s quick to sack managers for indiscretions, underperforming or petty arguments, yet allows a sulking Belgian winger to make demands. No player is bigger than the club, especially one that has been so public in his flirtation with another team.
After the World Cup, and Belgium’s defeat to France, Hazard seemed to issue a “come and get me” plea to Madrid. He told the press: “After six wonderful years at Chelsea, it might be time to discover something different. I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision – if they want to let me go”.
This isn’t the kind of statement that a player should nonchalantly be making to the press. It smacks of unprofessionalism. Other players have used such tactics as leverage in new contract talks to get more money. But this has been a long-standing issue and, in my opinion, transcends Hazard trying to get an extra £20k a week beyond what the club may be offering.
He’s not the only one
Hazard is far from the only Belgian conducting himself in a wholly unprofessional manner. Thibaut Courtois is doing the same. Talk of him leaving to join Real Madrid has been going on since around the same time rumours about Hazard began. In fact, directly after he got eliminated from the World Cup, the rumour mill almost imploded. It’s been claimed that Courtois has agreed personal terms on a 5-year contract with Real Madrid, for around £10million a year in wages.
He’s also been vocal about his desire to leave, despite Chelsea offering him a contract worth £200,000 a week. He has repeated his wish to leave on a free next summer if he can’t leave in this transfer window. Thibaut has said that “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”, which gave rise to rumours of Madrid preparing a £221million bid for the duo. The Belgian, who kept 3 clean sheets out of 7 in the World Cup, has said he believes his performances in the competition mean he deserves more from whichever club he ends up at. His former partner and their two children reside in Madrid, so there is another incentive for him to move.
Both players have been important for this club, granted. However, the club and, most importantly, the fans, deserve more respect and courtesy than these two have afforded them. Currently, the squad is a world apart from the loyal core Chelsea fans have been accustomed to in the past. I certainly won’t be joining the Chelsea fans in begging and clamouring for the pair to stay, especially if they don’t want to be here. We’re not a small club, and no player is irreplaceable – something the Belgian duo would do well to remember. As Tony Adams said, “Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they’ll remember the name on the back”. As it stands, I’ll remember Courtois and Hazard for entirely the wrong reasons.