Wed, May 30, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard says he is joining Blues

AFP, LILLE, FRANCE, AND PRAGUE

LOSC Lille Metropole’s Belgian international playmaker Eden Hazard announced on Monday he had signed for Champions League winners Chelsea in preference to Premier League champions Manchester City and runners-up Manchester United.

The fee is reported to be 40 million euros (US$50 million), with Hazard signing a five-year contract and it breaks the record for a Belgian player’s transfer, with Marouane Fellaini’s move to Everton for 20 million euros in 2008 being the previous mark.

He will also earn a reported 550,000 euros a month.

The 21-year-old — who was voted the Ligue 1 Players’ Player of the Year for the second successive year — had previously said he would definitely sign for one of the Manchester clubs, without specifying which one.

However, Chelsea’s penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final had, he admitted at the time, made him hesitate as to his choice — speculation he ended on Monday even though the transfer window does not officially open until June 13.

“I’m signing for the Champion’s League winner,” he tweeted.

Hazard, capped 27 times and a scorer of two goals, was inspirational when Lille won the domestic double last year and although they failed to defend their titles this season, he nonetheless enjoyed a successful season, scoring 17 goals and providing 15 assists.

Hazard is due to play against several of his new teammates in Saturday’s friendly with England at Wembley.

Meanwhile, Chelsea received another boost on Monday when their star goalkeeper Petr Cech signed a new four-year contract.

The 30-year-old Czech Republic international — who lived up to his nickname “Mr Perfect” in the Champions League final, saving Arjen Robben’s stoppage-time penalty and two more in the shootout — has been at the Blues since 2004.

The former Sparta Prague goalkeeper, capped 89 times and one of the few survivors from the Czech Republic side that reached the Euro 2004 semi-finals, said he was looking forward to more successful times at Chelsea.

“I believe the next four years will be as successful as the eight I’ve spent with the club so far,” Cech said on his Web site.

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