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Hazard finally decides, set to join Chelsea

Associated Press
May 30, 2012 at 09:54am IST

Paris: Eden Hazard is set to join European champions Chelsea, who appear to have beaten Premier League winners Manchester City and Manchester United in the race to sign one of football's brightest young talents.

The 21-year-old Belgium winger had a brilliant season for Lille, scoring 20 league goals — one behind French leaders and Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud — and topping the list with 15 assists. He scored a first-half hat-trick in his final game for Lille, who finished third in the league this season after winning the title last campaign.

"I'm signing for the Champions League winners," Hazard said on his Twitter page on Monday.

Hazard finally decides, set to join Chelsea

The 21-year-old Belgium winger had a brilliant season for Lille, scoring 20 league goals and topping the list with 15 assists.

Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out earlier this month in the Champions League final to qualify for next season's competition after having finished only sixth in the league.

There was no announcement from Lille that Hazard will join Chelsea, although the club has previously said they are prepared to let him go for about €33 million.

Chelsea later issued a statement to The Associated Press saying: "As with all transfers, when we have something to announce we will announce it in the usual way."

City, Premier League runners-up United and Arsenal were among the clubs reportedly interested in signing Hazard, whose agent recently claimed that the player had agreed on personal terms with all the interested parties.

The transfer saga, however, has dragged on for several weeks.

Hazard first said he would announce his future destination at the traditional end-of-season awards ceremony, in which he was voted the French league's best player for the second year running. But he pushed that back and promised to clarify his position after Lille's final league game of the season two weeks ago.

He received a standing ovation after his hat-trick against Nancy, which included his ninth penalty from nine attempts this season, and then grabbed a microphone and told the fans he was leaving without nominating a destination.

Signing Hazard would represent a significant coup for Chelsea, considering that City manager Roberto Mancini and United boss Alex Ferguson both flew to France to watch Hazard this season.

Hazard was twice voted the French league's best young player, in 2009 and 2010, giving him individual awards in four straight campaigns. Altogether, he scored 36 league goals in 147 games for Lille after having been spotted playing in Belgium and then brought through the club's youth system.

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