The Belgium international Eden Hazard claimed last night 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 Roman Abramovich.
Having promised he would disclose the identity of the club he was planning to join earlier in the day, Hazard, 21, tweeted at 8.40pm last night he had chosen the "Champions League winners". There was no official confirmation from Chelsea last night that they had reached agreement with Hazard's club, Lille, over 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 that of the clubs in the frame to sign him 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 Hazard, who said that playing in the competition next season was a big part of his thinking. Hazard is now training with the national squad – Belgium did not qualify for Euro 2012 – and will play against England at Wembley in Saturday's friendly.
A Chelsea spokesman said last night: "As with all transfers, when we have something to announce, we will announce it in the usual way."
Abramovich has already signed Marko Marin from Werder Bremen for around £7m and the expectation is that there will be further signings including another striker to replace the departed Didier Drogba. Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Hulk are among those under consideration. The club also showed their faith in goalkeeper Petr Cech yesterday with a new four-year deal.
In other Chelsea news, Fernando Torres has climbed down from his post-Champions League final threat to review his future at Stamford Bridge after being left out of the starting line-up that night, and has been given personal assurances by Abramovich that he will be a key part of the team next season.
Torres, 28, spoke about his situation at Spain's pre-Euro 2012 training camp in Austria yesterday and said he had been told by Abramovich that he should stay despite an unremarkable 16 months so far. Torres was a long-term personal target for Abramovich who was the driving force behind the deal to sign the striker for £50m in January last year.
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 to keep fighting and continue to be essential for the team."
The Spaniard's words echo those of Chelsea's chief executive Ron Gourlay who said last week that the club had absolute belief he would come good for them, which is especially important now that Didier Drogba has left. Torres has scored just 12 goals for the club.
When he was left out of the team that played Bayern Munich he said he had experienced the "worst" moments of his career at Chelsea and complained about his treatment under the former manager, Andre Villas-Boas.
Vicente Del Bosque left Torres out of the Spain squad for a friendly against Venezuela in February, arguably the low point of a very difficult season for Chelsea. However the injury to David Villa means there is a good chance Torres, who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final, could start against Italy in Spain's first game on 10 June.
Torres said his omission in February alarmed him. "I started to understand that things were serious, that I wasn't getting much playing time with my club and that if things carried on that way I wouldn't be going to Euro 2012," he said.
"Vicente has put his faith in me and now I need to show him I am ready to play whenever he thinks it necessary. When you see yourself missing out and then you are selected you are more excited even than the first day.
"I have arrived feeling fresh because I haven't had the same physical burden as the others and I am in good shape. I would have liked to have played more for my club but the important thing is that everything works out in the end."
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