Where once it was hard to imagine Chelsea Football Club without the likes of Terry, Lampard, Drogba, et al., these days, that torch is carried by the likes of Hazard, Courtois, and a few others who aren’t the subject of this post. They are not quite as “Old Guard-y” as the famed Old Guard, but they are still just in their mid-20s, so they have every chance of getting there eventually.
But in order to do so, they will need to have their contracts extended, and especially in Courtois’ case, there’s little time to waste in that regard. The goalkeeper, who’s been on Chelsea’s books longer than all but one other player — trivia answer: ten-time loanee Matej Delač — will have just one year left on his contract at the end of the season, and while he claims he’s not all that concerned about it, Chelsea have yet to meet his De Gea-esque wage demands of £200k after a year of off-and-on talks.
Hazard, who is the current active leader in appearances for Chelsea, has one more year on his current deal than his club and international teammate, but given the constant Real Madrid rumors, his extension should be a top priority as well. There had been some rumors regarding that already, with a potential wage bump to a club record £300k, but no concrete progress has been made, perhaps in part due to the broken ankle he picked up in the summer. But that’s just speculation; like Courtois’s, Hazard’s deal should be a no-brainer and something that must get done.
Antonio Conte is of the same mind.
“For sure, if you ask me about these two players, I will be very happy when they can have these deals -- but I repeat, this is the responsibility of the club.
"I can give my opinion about these two players and, for me, they are two great players, especially because they have a lot of space for improvement. They are very young players and it will be great to keep them with us.
"Thibaut is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Maybe the best now. And also Eden. But I think the club knows very well the importance of these two players and I think they are very happy to play for this club. It is normal during the season to have the contact between the player — or the agent of the player — and the club. I hope that at the end, Thibaut will sign his contract."
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
Could Chelsea find replacements for Hazard and Courtois, should these situations devolve into an Arsenal-esque mess? Possibly. Depending on whom you ask, we might even be able to find better players. But it would not be easy, it would not be cheap, and it would introduce additional risk. Chelsea acquired Courtois and Hazard when they were still very young and for what nowadays are absolute bargain prices. That’s a competitive advantage that we should not throw away, even before we begin to consider how we can continue building the club around the two of them for at least the next half-decade, if not more.
Get it done.