EDEN HAZARD has admitted he had talks over his future with Chelsea after the World Cup but insists he is ready to give his all this season after scoring a hat-trick in an emphatic win over Cardiff yesterday.
The Belgium forward was linked with Real Madrid after captaining his country to a third-placed finish in Russia and even hinted at a desire to leave Stamford Bridge.
Having hailed Real as a “special” club earlier in the summer, he told reporters at the World Cup: “I’ve been linked to all the big clubs. Next week it will be Bayern. No, I’m joking. You all know my preferred destination.”
The Spanish giants lost talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in July and were linked with a big-money move to recruit Hazard as his replacement.
Chelsea were determined not to lose their star man and remain keen to tie the 27-year-old down to a new long-term contract worth a reported £300,000-a-week with just two years remaining on his current terms.
And Hazard – whose long-term future remains up in the air – has admitted he had discussions over potentially leaving the club.
Asked by Match of the Day host Gary Lineker about his happiness at Chelsea following links over a summer exit, Hazard responded: “I’m always happy when I play football.
“After the World Cup I spoke, now I’m still with Chelsea.
“I just try to give everything for this club. This club gave me a lot so when I’m on the pitch I try to do my best.”
The Blues initially fell behind to Sol Bamba’s volley before two Hazard goals within seven minutes before half-time turned the game in Chelsea’s favour.
Hazard netted his treble from the penalty spot in the 80th minute before Willian added a late fourth from distance to maintain Maurizio Sarri’s side’s perfect record.
And Hazard – who has enjoyed an electric start to the campaign with five goals and two assists in five top-flight appearances – feels he is in ideal shape.
He added: “I’m fresh. I took three weeks off after the World Cup. I think for me, it was enough, so we start the pre-season later.
“I’m good when I’m playing football. Sometimes I’m tired but on the pitch I try to give everything and at the moment we’re doing well so it’s a pleasure to play.”
Chelsea went under the radar in the Premier League title conversation but are just one of two clubs, alongside Liverpool, with a maximum return of 15 points from 15 at this stage.
That is a marked difference to the Chelsea side who finished fifth, missing out on Champions League football, under Sarri’s predecessor Antonio Conte last term.
And on what has changed this season thanks to the Italian tactician, Hazard continued: “He just wants Chelsea to keep the ball and then when we find solutions, find good passes between the lines like Jorginho, [Mateo] Kovacic, [Cesc] Fabregas can do it.
“We have a lot of good players, we’re confident – we shoot, we score! We need to keep this momentum.”
Chelsea kickstart their European campaign with a trip to Greece to face PAOK on Thursday (5.55pm UK time) and return to domestic action against London rivals West Ham next Sunday (1.30pm).