Hazard: I'm joining the European champions

 

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The Independent Online

The Belgium international Eden Hazard claimed last night that he would sign for Chelsea, making one of Europe's most highly-rated young players the second signing in what promises to be another summer of major acquisitions by the Blues' owner, Roman Abramovich.

Hazard, 21, tweeted at 8.40pm last night that he had chosen the "Champions League winners". There was no official confirmation from Chelsea that they had reached agreement with Hazard's club, Lille, for a transfer fee that is expected to be in the region of £40m.

Hazard was courted by Manchester United and Manchester City until the latter stages of the process and it is understood that Joe Cole, on loan at Lille last season, was an influential figure in Hazard's decision. Although Cole ran down his contract at Chelsea and left as a free agent in 2010, he is understood to have told Hazard he was best served by joining Chelsea.

Chelsea's last-ditch qualification for the Champions League, by winning the final in Munich this month to guarantee a place in the group stages next season, was also a decisive factor for the player, who said that playing in the competition next season was a major factor in his thinking. Hazard is currently training with the Belgium squad and will play against England at Wembley on Saturday.

Abramovich has already signed Marko Marin from Werder Bremen for around £7m and the expectation is that there will be further signings this summer including another striker to replace Didier Drogba. Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Hulk are among those under consideration. The club also demonstrated their faith in the goalkeeper Petr Cech yesterday, by giving him a new four-year deal.

Fernando Torres has climbed down from his post-Champions League final threat that he would review his future at Chelsea, having been given personal assurances by Abramovich that he will be a key part of the team next season.

Torres, 28, said he had been told by the owner that he should stay despite having had an unremarkable 16 months at the club so far.

Torres said: "I had a conversation with the owner of Chelsea and he trusts me. His confidence is total and that is what I needed."

Torres is in Spain's squad for Euro 2012, having been ignored for a friendly against Venezuela in February. With David Villa injured, there is a good chance he could play against Italy on 10 June.

Torres said: "I am even more excited than on my first day."

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