Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has urged Eden Hazard to forget any prospect of a big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain and focus on proving he is fit again by helping to halt the in-form French champions.
Hazard appeared to give his suitors fresh hope when he said it would “difficult to say no to PSG” in a newspaper interview published in France on the eve of Tuesday's Champions League last 16, first leg clash.
Hiddink told the Belgium attacking midfielder to focus on reminding Chelsea of his worth first, having scored just once in 32 games following his award-winning turn in last term’s title-winning team.
The Dutchman also took a swipe at the standard of Ligue 1, which PSG lead by 24 points with 12 games matches remaining.
“First he must get fit and show he is a top player and then for Chelsea, which is a top club, he can be of huge value,” said Hiddink.
“PSG have big targets to win the Champions League and, step by step, they have gathered a reputation and are very serious about becoming one of the biggest teams in Europe, so this challenge I can understand.
“But it is a different league. France is not a bad league but this team are now ahead by 24 points. I think big players always like to be in the biggest league, which is the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga.”
PSG’s extraordinary domestic dominance is in stark contrast to Chelsea’s struggles this season, and the bookmakers’ odds suggest they are fancied to knock the Blues out for a second year running.
Hiddink has nurtured improvement since replacing Jose Mourinho in December, however, and Saturday’s 5-1 win over Newcastle lends credibility to his quiet optimism.
“It’s 50-50. If you see where we are now and where PSG are now, they are building a very strong team and dominating the French league completely,” he added.
“The league didn’t start well for us this year, and we’ve had some recovery from December up to now, but we’re desperate to get into the next round of the Champions League. It’s a big test for us to get into the next round and I hope we can do something to swing it to our advantage.”
Hiddink is without his preferred defensive pairing of John Terry and Kurt Zouma, after the former was ruled out yesterday.
Right-back Branislav Ivanovic is set to partner Gary Cahill at centre-half, while American January signing Matt Miazga and teenager Jake Clarke-Salter have travelled to Paris as potential cover.
Chelsea, 14 points adrift of the Premier League top four, are likely to have to repeat their 2012 Champions League success to qualify for the competition again next season.