Guus Hiddink has played down rumours of Eden Hazard leaving Real Madrid and has backed the Belgian to play an important role at Chelsea next season.
This time last year Hazard scooped the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) player of the year award; this weekend he finally broke his Premier League goal duck for this season.
Hazard scored twice in Chelsea’s 4-1 win at Bournemouth after shaking off groin trouble, and now Hiddink has tipped the 25-year-old to resist a move away from the Blues in the summer.
“It’s important that he’s here next year,” said Hiddink of Hazard, who has been linked regularly with a summer move to Real Madrid.
“He has some more years to go on his contract. And what I do know is that he is very happy with everything at Chelsea, and everything around Chelsea.
“He is very important and if he is fit he will be very important again next season.”
Hazard’s season of discontent was kick-started by the Eva Carneiro row during Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the campaign.
Jose Mourinho eventually lost his job over the Carneiro fallout, that centred around the doctor rushing onto the field unprompted to treat Hazard.
Hazard and Mourinho’s relationship appeared at least outwardly never to recover fully, leading to those frequent rumours about the Belgium playmaker agitating for a transfer.
Italy’s Antonio Conte will take the Chelsea helm in the summer, and Hiddink firmly believes he will be able to build his new-look Blues team around the Belgian.
Hiddink also tipped Hazard to regain the kind of game-breaking form that can lead to further accolades like the PFA gong he won last term.
“He’s very light, very fresh now in training, he’s been enjoying it and making jokes,” said Hiddink.
“He’s playing free with no doubt in his mind and no frustrations, so this is a good sign for me.
“Now he can go on for the whole season.
“He’s not fully fit yet, so without taking any risks in the upcoming days he can regain that. And then of course the mental fitness will go accordingly.
“It’s been a very bad season for him, we don’t like to neglect the facts.
“It’s difficult for a talent, high-quality player like Hazard. I think this season he had a difficult season, falling into injuries, coming back, nearly getting back then getting injured again.
“When you come back properly you’ll be back well, and he showed that today.
“When he is fully fit physically and mentally then he is one of the best.
“And I think he can regain the (PFA) award. He has the capacity to gain it back in coming years.”