Eden Hazard: How can Chelsea adequately replace the bustling Belgian?

It isn’t the best vacation for Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri could end his English sojourn abruptly in favour of the vacated Juventus dugout. Recee James joins fellow academy graduates Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the injury list.

On top of that, Chelsea heads into the new campaign banned from reinforcements. Yet Eden Hazard’s painful departure to Real Madrid could ultimately hunt the Fulham-based side the most. The Blues must conjure a solution. How should they approach this debacle?

There wasn’t much surprise when Los Blancos announced the capture of Hazard on Friday. The Belgian already gave that hint after the Europa League final victory over Arsenal. Certain to move, the little shock, however, was the rapid nature of the deal.

Chelsea reportedly accepted an offer of an initial £88.5 million. The deal with Real will run until 2024, with significant add-ons and bonuses expected to be reached. This could push the total payout to £130 million — nowhere near as gratifying as a Yankee Bet.

In a statement issued on his social media accounts on Friday, Hazard insisted he would never have considered leaving Chelsea for any club other than Real Madrid and thanked owner Roman Abramovich for granting his wish to join the Spanish giants.

“You now know that I will be joining Real Madrid,” he said. “It’s no secret that it was my dream to play for them since I was a young boy just scoring my first goal. I have tried my very best not to distract myself or the team through this difficult period of speculation and media attention, especially the last 6 months.”

Indeed Hazard’s heart always lied in Madrid. The ex-Lille man was linked with Spain’s capital almost every summer. Even when the 28-year-old signed a five-and-a-half-year-deal in February 2015, he was still expected to depart when the transfer window opens.

However, with the Belgian now out of the picture, Chelsea must find an instant solution. The Blues’ plight is particularly heightened by Hudson-Odoi’s injury which could rule him out till January. The good news, though, is Christian Pulisic’s impending arrival.

Although not in the same level, Pulisic has what it takes to step in. Chelsea agreed on a deal to sign the final-third operator in January before loaning him straight back until the summer.

Pulisic started just nine Bundesliga matches – due to a combination of injury, the explosion of Jadon Sancho’s talent, and Raphael Guerreiro’s and Jacob Bruun Larsen’s natural left-footedness on the opposite flank – but he remains a top-level performer.

Seven goals and four assists came at a rate of every 70 minutes Pulisic played in 2018/19, an incredible number given he had to adjust to the flow of a game from the bench 13 times, also doing so from out wide.

Pulisic is very comfortable on the ball, dribbling directly at opponents. He rarely gets dispossessed with a fearless willingness to take on his marker in one-on-one situations. According to Whoscored, the 20-year-old made the most dribbles in the Bundesliga since the start of last season.

The young forward is also influential when it comes to short, quick passes. This allows teammates to create dangerous moments in the final third. He is pacy, with an incredible work rate averaging over 10.2 kilometres per game. Through the middle or either flank, Pulisic is proficient to any position in attack.

Given the time to develop, Pulisic could fill Hazard’s shoes. After all, his size is bigger.

Written by Toby Prince

Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby

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