The pursuit of Wayne Rooney is likely to last all summer and on Monday night, as Jose Mourinho's players prepared for his first match of his second spell as Chelsea manager, the winger Eden Hazard became the latest figure at the club to endorse a move for the Manchester United striker.
Chelsea play Singha All-Stars on Wednesday in Bangkok, the same city which Rooney, Chelsea's priority signing this summer, departed last week with a hamstring injury. Asked on Monday whether Rooney would fit the way that Chelsea play, Hazard said that the Englishman was, in his words, "un super bon joueur" who still has much to offer despite slipping down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
Hazard said: "Rooney, Xabi Alonso at Real Madrid, [Daniele] De Rossi [at Roma]. We've heard all the names. It's not up to us who comes in, but it's exciting. Rooney would be a brilliant signing. He's a great player who has the experience, and he's still only young, at 27. He's got a few years left to play. But it's not up to me. It's not my decision."
Chelsea have pursued Rooney ever since they were made aware of issues he had at the club last season and, in spite of United's protestations that they are not prepared to sell the player, the London club believe that they will get the opportunity to buy. They feel that United could yet cut their losses with two years on Rooney's contract remaining, especially given David Moyes' assertion that the player is now regarded as back-up for Robin Van Persie.
Hazard, last season's marquee signing at £32m last year, was shortlisted for the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year award with an impressive run-in curtailed by injury. He said that since taking over, Mourinho had encouraged him to be "ambitious". "He wants me to try things and that, if I do that, I can do something special this year. I told him I wanted to do myself justice."
Hazard said that Mourinho had set a relaxed atmosphere during his first few weeks in charge. "He [Mourinho] is someone who comes across as very calm in what he does. We've only been working together for a week now, and it's been a good week. There's been a lot said about him and written about him but I've found him a very good person. He loves his players. He laughs and jokes with them a lot out on the training pitch, and that's good to see in a coach.
"He's calm, yes. I'm sure he can lose his cool as well, but he's calm in explaining what he wants us to do so that we understand fully his instructions, we learn. He won't always be calm, obviously. But we'll see how it goes over the course of the season."
On the subject of his fellow Belgium international Christian Benteke, currently pursued by Tottenham Hotspur but an outside bet for Chelsea if the Rooney deal does not transpire, Hazard had little comfort for Aston Villa. He said that the striker, who has asked Villa to leave, was ready to play for a more successful club.
Hazard said: "Benteke is my friend. We get on very well. And he had an unbelievable first season for a young striker in the Premier League. His dream is to play even higher. As for his decision [to ask Villa for a transfer], I think it's the right one because he has the quality to impose himself wherever. To make his mark at any club.
"I wasn't surprised, no. We speak all the time and he'd told me: 'Right, I've done well. What next?' I think he's got all the attributes to do well at a big club."
Hazard acknowledged that with the arrival of Mourinho, the pressure to win was that much the greater at Chelsea. "With Mourinho we know what he is. With him in charge, we win matches and ultimately trophies.
"His arrival is important. But it won't be him who actually goes out there and wins the title. He'll do everything he can to put that in place, to create the environment for us, but it'll be the players who have to deliver the trophies. We have to concentrate on what he wants of us and, if we all give 100 per cent, we have a real chance of winning the title.Reuse content