Eden Hazard may not need the Champions League to stay at Chelsea, but he does expect new teammates. Chelsea need new players, but they should be driving that issue – not Hazard.
Chelsea has so far dodged two bullets with the supporting conditions Eden Hazard attached to his contract renewal.
Hazard no longer appears to have his fate tied to Thibaut Courtois’, as was the case during the winter.
And Hazard is seemingly at peace with Chelsea’s place in the Europa League, saying last week he does not need the Champions League next year.
His latest soft demand involves Chelsea’s summer transfer business.
Hazard said Monday he will not sign a new contract until he sees who the Blues bring in during the transfer window.
Considering Chelsea’s history of making dubious deals late in the window, this could be more of a stare-down than the other demands.
On its face, Hazard is less making a demand than simply laying down a minimum level of obvious expectation.
Every club with any level of ambition needs to buy players in the transfer window. Let alone a club as far behind the curve as Chelsea.
If the Blues did not make any significant purchases, all the players would have a reason for concern.
Hazard is looking for more than just shirt-fillers.
“I’m waiting for new players next season. I want good players because I want to win the Premier League next season.”
Again, nothing too earth-shattering in wanting good players. Not many people hope to have incompetent coworkers.
But Chelsea needs to be on-guard against Eden Hazard and his agent driving the transfer window as leverage in their negotiations.
Hazard is the kind of player a club can build around for years to come. But that should be a reward for the player’s a priori commitment, not a trade for influence.
There is a significant difference between gathering players’ input and ceding control of the vision to the locker room, particularly a star.
And particularly one who is dangling his future on these incoming players.
Allowing a player such a voice would further re-open the door to player power.
Antonio Conte’s most-repeated gripe about his job is how little say he has over transfers.
If the club allowed a player a greater voice than the manager, including yielding to the player’s threats while dismissing the manager’s concerns, they would once again undercut the manager.
This would create another fault line in the team, would send a strong message about the pecking order at Stamford Bridge and would make the managerial position even less appealing than it is now.
Chelsea is already dealing with their reputation as a toxic work environment for the man on the touchline.
No competent manager will want the job knowing the players will have a greater role in choosing the next batch of players that he will.
The Blues need to be equally diligent this summer in their transfers and their contract renewals.
These two areas overlap in terms of budget and team assembly. Once again, these issues would proceed much more smoothly if the Blues had a technical director.
In his absence, whoever is overseeing the window (Marina Gronovskaia? Bruce Buck? Roman Abramovich himself?) needs to keep a careful watch on these power dynamics.
The senior players should have a voice in who will be joining them in next year’s Premier League and Europa League campaigns. But their voice should be weighted well less than Antonio Conte’s.