New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says he wants to keep Eden Hazard at the club and “improve” the Belgium forward.
Hazard, who has been linked with Real Madrid, said last weekend “it might be time to discover something different” after six years at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, described Hazard as “one of the top two or three European players”.
The former Napoli boss said: “Hazard is a very high-level player. I hope that I will manage to improve him.”
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Roberto Martinez, the Belgium manager, told Spanish radio recently that Hazard should consider leaving Chelsea to further his career.
The forward, for his part, responded to the Real Madrid reports by telling journalists last Saturday: “You know my preferred destination.
“I can decide if I want to stay or go but Chelsea will make the final decision – if they want to let me go.”
Sarri said he wanted to meet Hazard, who is away on holiday after representing Belgium at the World Cup.
“I would like to have fun during the week with him. This would mean very good results and mean we would have been very competitive during the season,” added the 59-year-old Italian.
Asked if he planned to phone Hazard – or any other player linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge – Sarri added: “A telephone call without looking them in the eye would not give me any certainty.
“I’d like to meet them face to face. I would also like a player to come on the [training] pitch four or five days to have a clear idea.”
Sarri suggested that England defender Gary Cahill has a future at Stamford Bridge, despite reports that the new manager is looking at signing centre-back Daniele Rugani from Juventus.
On Cahill, Sarri said: “I think he can still give us a lot.”
‘I am bored by the transfer market’
Sarri said he was one of the few managers who was “bored” by the transfer market and that his aim was to inject “fun” into his squad.
“I feel more a pitch manager than a general manager,” he added.
“I think that I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don’t want to talk about the transfer market and I am not interested in it.”
Sarri conducted most of his news conference in Italian although he is able to speak English.
He said: “I have to say sorry to everybody because my English is not so good. I don’t want to say anything wrong. I hope I will be able to do it [speak English] in a few weeks.”
Sarri added: “I need to have fun in order to do well. My goal is to have fun while I am here.
“The club have asked me to build a season where we have to be competitive in all competitions and in order to do that we must get to March and April in all competitions.”
‘People make mistakes’
Former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini accused Sarri of using homophobic language towards him during a touchline altercation in January 2016.
Sarri was in charge of Napoli while Mancini was at Inter Milan.
Chelsea’s new manager also apologised for insulting comments to a female journalist in March.
“People make mistakes. One of these mistakes was made when I was angry,” added Sarri. “Those that know me well cannot define me in this way. Homophobic and sexist – absolutely not.
“I am an open person and I do not have these kinds of problems. I hope I am able to show this while I am here.”
‘I am not afraid’
Sarri replaces Antonio Conte, who was sacked by Chelsea despite winning the Premier League in 2016-17 and the FA Cup in 2017-18.
Chelsea’s new boss has yet to win a major trophy in his managerial career but said he was “not afraid” of the challenge ahead.
“If I was someone who always worried I probably would do another job,” he said.
“Our job means risks but there is also a lot of satisfaction. I am not afraid.”
Last season, Chelsea finished 30 points behind champions Manchester City, managed by Sarri’s friend Pep Guardiola.
“He is a class act, a champion and a genius,” Sarri added.