By Editor Wayne Veysey
Barcelona are to keep close tabs on Eden Hazard after being alerted by his troubled spell at Chelsea, Football Insider sources understand.
The Spanish giants are ready to join rivals Real Madrid in the race to prise Hazard from Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.
The double-winning Footballer of the Year has told friends that he is unsettled at Chelsea following a difficult start to the season in which divisions have grown in his relationship with Jose Mourinho.
Hazard signed a new £200,000-a-week contract last year that runs until 2020 and made him the best-paid player in Chelsea’s history.
But cracks are starting to emerge and Hazard is starting to weigh up the possibility of a shock move at the end of the season.
Real have been frequently linked with the Belgian, who is in his fourth season at Chelsea following his £32million transfer from Lyon in the summer of 2012.
Barcelona, whose transfer ban ends next January, will also closely monitor Hazard in the coming months.
The 24-year-old has had an up-and-down relationship with Mourinho since the Portugese returned in 2013 for a second spell at the club, most notably in the final months of the 2013-14 campaign.
The manager has attempted to drill into the Belgian the need to put the team first and track back when Chelsea do not have the ball.
Although Mourinho spoke warmly of Hazard’s performances last season as the winger played a central role in the club winning their first Premier League title in five years, the praise has been far less effusive in the new campaign.
Hazard, an ever-present as the Blues romped to the title last season, was dropped for Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa last Saturday after a significant drop in the standards that made him the 2014-15 PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
Although he was recalled for the team’s Champions League goal-less draw at Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday, he is said to be not enjoying his football as criticism grows both inside and outside of the club.
Hazard has not scored in 12 Premier League and Champions League appearances this season, although he has delivered three assists for team-mates.
French newspaper L’Equipe cited his relationship with Mourinho and, intriguingly, a lack of ambition at Chelsea as mitigating factors.
In other Chelsea transfer news, the Blues have been linked with a move for Red Star Belgrade midfielder Marko Grujic.