Chelsea will have to meet release fee demands to sign leading target

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With a number of top European clubs all in the race for Eden Hazard, Lille have realised their strong bartering position and are determined to hold out for £35m for their playmaker.

The 21-year-old is not out of contract at the French club until 2015, meaning that Lille are in no rush to sell their chief asset for anything less than his minimum fee release clause.

Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid are among the clubs known to be interested in Hazard, but offers have not been forthcoming.

Real Madrid were thought to be at the head of the race and Zinedine Zidane had even gone to the lengths to personally ask Florentino Perez for the money to bring Hazard to the Bernebeu.

The point at which these discussions have currently reached is unknown and it is Chelsea that have been more revealing with their plans.

Andre Villas-Boas is keen to add more creativity to his ranks at Stamford Bridge and has pinpointed Hazard as being on his shortlist.

However, his initial bid of £25m has been rebuffed and the big decision now is whether the Belgian is worth a greater sum or maybe even whether a deal could wait until the summer.

This would be a risky strategy though given the strength of the other teams in the race for his signature, who may have clearer budgets and be more willing to spend in the summer.

Chelsea could do with a couple of new faces immediately to strengthen their case for a top-four spot and a failure to reach the Champions League could effectively mean failure in their quest to lure some of Europe’s top stars to Stamford Bridge.

It is currently 8/13 in the Premier League odds that Chelsea finish in the top four this season, while they are 4/11 to triumph in their next top-flight fixture at home to Sunderland.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.