Antonio Conte has admitted he cannot guarantee Eden Hazard will still be a Chelsea player next season.
The Premier League leaders can take “a strong step” towards reclaiming the title by winning at Goodison Park on Sunday – the toughest fixture in their remaining five games.
A single point will guarantee a return to the Champions League, but whether Hazard will be part of the next campaign has been thrown into fresh doubt this week.
There have been renewed claims in Spain that the Belgian will become the latest €100m Real Madrid Galactico this summer. Or it could be David De Gea, Paulo Dybala or Kylian Mbappe.
Asked if Hazard will remain a Chelsea player, Conte said: “I think that it’s impossible for me to take this responsibility, but not only for Eden but for every single player. In this situation it’s the club who have the final decision.
“I don’t think that this idea is in the mind of the club (to sell Hazard). I think we have to improve the team, to reinforce the team. But you know that, in football, there is also the will of the player. The future, I haven’t a crystal ball, no.”
The Spanish giants signed Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez when they were the best players in the Premier League. Could Roman Abramovich’s club reject their money?
“I think that everything is possible, everything is possible in football,” Conte added.
Hazard has a contract in West London till 2020 and has not agitated for a pay rise with Chelsea are ready to make him the best paid Premier League player in the summer.
“I’m not surprised because I think Eden is very happy to stay with us and work with us,” said the Blues boss. “I think his family is very happy to stay here and play for this team, for this club.
Antonio Conte speaks ahead of Everton v Chelsea
“The fans love him and I think there are a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and to try to reach the best with this club.
“Don’t forget, the target of this club is to try to win in every competition we play in.”
Chelsea lost in the league and cup at Goodison Park last season and Everton, with former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, have won their last eight at home. Conte is predicting the title race will go to the wire.
“Everton are a really good team, a strong team, with great players in their squad,” he said. “It will be a very tough game for us, for sure, but at the end of the season, every game becomes tough for many different reasons.
“On Sunday, for sure, we can take a very strong step. I said we’d have to fight until the end to win this title. I’m sure whoever wins this title will be one point or two points, not a lot of points.”