Eden Hazard is prepared to keep Chelsea sweating on his future until the summer as he waits to find out if Real Madrid will make him their number one transfer target.
And Hazard has put pressure on Chelsea to solve their striker crisis in the January transfer window by revealing he does not want to become a permanent false nine.
Chelsea are looking at a range of options and have been working on a potential deal in which they take over Gonzalo Higuain’s loan from Juventus and Alvaro Morata moves to AC Milan on a temporary basis.
Hazard became Chelsea’s latest centurion with two goals in the victory against Watford, which meant he has netted three times in four games since being asked to play as a false nine while Morata has been missing.
The Belgian raised hopes among Chelsea fans that he is ready to sign a new contract by declaring that he wants to become a club legend “like Lampard, Terry and Drogba” immediately after the Vicarage Road win.
But asked later whether that meant he is now preparing to commit his long-term future to Chelsea, Hazard replied: “I am just focused on the pitch. I will see at the end of the season.”
With a new deal worth well over £300,000-a-week on the table, Chelsea will push Hazard to make a decision sooner than the summer, when he will only have 12 months remaining on his contract.
The 27-year-old’s advisors were in London earlier this month, but Chelsea know that their best chance of keeping Hazard past this season is to hope Real prioritise one of their other big-money targets.
Other than Hazard, Real are also interested in Paris Saint-Germain pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe but neither of those players are close to the end of their contracts.
Hazard has given mixed messages over his future both inside and outside Chelsea. He excited backroom staff recently by suggesting he was preparing to stay, but he has never communicated that officially to the club.
What happens in the January transfer window could play a major part in whether or not Chelsea can convince Hazard to give up on his dream of playing for Real.
Hazard has reaffirmed the fact that he does not believe the false nine through the middle is his best position and wants to move back out to the left.
Other than Higuain, Chelsea have considered Nabil Fekir, Callum Wilson, who Bournemouth are determined to keep, and Jamie Vardy as January targets.