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Hazard: Mourinho the one manager I want to play for again

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Eden Hazard is taking Chelsea supporters on a rollercoaster ride this international break.

[ MORE: Monaco hires Henry ]

What began with the latest in a long line of public flirtations with Real Madrid led to a bit of relief when the Belgian admitted he wouldn’t be leaving Chelsea in January.

So how does the Premier League’s leading scorer follow it up? By praising Chelsea’s two-time former manager and saying he’d like to play for him again.

Hazard says he apologized to Jose Mourinho for a string of poor performances that helped get the Portuguese boss fired from his post at Stamford Bridge.

Before we go any further, this is not part of a hit piece where Hazard bashes Maurizio Sarri for only being unbeaten and not perfect at Chelsea.

From Sky Sports:

“I don’t regret many things in my career, but that I have not been able to work with Mourinho at Chelsea anymore is one of them. We had a team that could win more trophies. We just ended up in a negative cycle.

“I sent him a message to say I was sorry he had gone and that I was sorry. We’d enjoyed all that success together, but this time we hadn’t. I felt a little bit guilty because I’d been player of the year. I’d been one of the most decisive players, and then I performed less.”

Hazard later said Mourinho isn’t as “extremely defensive” of a manager as his critics describe, while quipping that he isn’t “as adventurous as Pep Guardiola.”

That, my friends, is understated.

He’s not heading to Manchester United, we think, though a Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial for Hazard and David Luiz swap would be hysterical (and tell the Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap it’s so last season).

Perhaps it’s more likely Mourinho and Florentino Perez reignite their love-hate relationship at Real Madrid, and the club makes Hazard its next Galactico.

It is interesting that some stars, most recently Hazard and his Belgian teammate Romelu Lukaku, have Mourinho’s back, and that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being linked with another stint at Manchester United.

Maybe big personalities simply have more sympathy for other big personalities or maybe being outside the blender makes the smoothie look more fun.

Or perhaps there’s more appreciation for Mourinho as the pool of experience grows for these players. Either way, Hazard sure knows how to keep his name in the news (and we’re neither accusing him of being disingenuous nor dishonest).

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.