For a player claiming to base his decision purely on football matters, Eden Hazard drove one heck of an auction before finally announcing on Monday that he will be joining Chelsea from Lille this summer.
The 21-year-old attacker spent months batting his eyelids at Premier League clubs, whether via Twitter or in interviews. Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United were all praised as worthy contenders for his signature before he decided on a move to Stamford Bridge.
The Manchester clubs, in particular, will be frustrated to have missed out on a player they both made their target for the summer transfer window. Chelsea may have won the Champions League but they finished 25 points adrift in sixth place in the Premier League last season.
The fear in Manchester was always that Hazard and his agent, John Bico, would follow the money as their demands ramped up with every conversation about the Belgian.
In the end, Chelsea were the only club prepared to accept Hazard’s terms as Blues owner Roman Abramovich looked for a stellar signing to kickstart a rejuvenation of the squad this summer.
The total cost of the Hazard deal to Chelsea will be around £90 million over the course of his five-year deal.
In addition to the £32m fee to be paid to Lille, Goal.com understands that Chelsea will pay Hazard more than £200,000 a week over the course of his contract, adding up to £10.4m per year. It will put him on a par with Fernando Torres as the club’s top earner.
Chelsea are also set to pay Bico around £6m for brokering the deal, a fee neither City or United had any inclination to meet, especially given the way Hazard and his camp conducted themselves throughout the saga.
City, backed by their billionaire Abu Dhabi owners, were in no mood to cede to Hazard’s demands and draw him alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure on their pay-scale given he has only ever played in France and still has much to prove. The Premier League champions thought their final offer of £150,000 a week was perfectly acceptable.
While United once thought they were in the driving seat because of their prestige and the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson, they were not prepared to offer more than £130,000 a week and were financially blown out of the water.
Chelsea’s promise of regular football, their place in next season’s Champions League and the lure of London were all factors in Hazard’s decision to move to Stamford Bridge. But, in truth, it appears they were supplementary considerations to the vast riches on offer.
It was also a chance for Abramovich to flex his muscles in the battle of the billionaires. The Russian has watched City outspend their rivals in recent years and would no doubt have felt some satisfaction in gazumping them.
Hazard has long been considered one of the most exciting young talents in European football. He could one day be considered one of the best players in the world, he may fire Chelsea to title triumphs and more Champions League glory. But the only guarantee is that he will earn pots of gold during his time in England.