Chelsea exit for Eden Hazard 'impossible' - Maurizio Sarri
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri said he believes Chelsea's squad is "complete" after the arrivals of Kepa Arrizabalaga and Mateo Kovacic and insisted that it is "impossible" for Eden Hazard to leave Stamford Bridge before the European transfer deadline on Aug. 31.
Chelsea enjoyed a quiet Premier League transfer deadline day, having broken their club-record to acquire Kepa from Athletic Bilbao from £71.5 million on Wednesday and secured Kovacic on a season-long loan as part of the deal that took Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid.
Sarri admitted that Kepa is not as good as Courtois right now, but praised Chelsea for getting "one of the most important" young goalkeepers in Europe and reiterated that Hazard's immediate future remains at Stamford Bridge.
"I'm very happy for both because Courtois' situation was clear," Sarri said. "He wanted to go to Madrid so we lost maybe one of the most important goalkeepers in the world. But we bought a young goalkeeper, one of the most important among the young goalkeepers in Europe, so I'm really happy.
"[Also] for Kovacic, because he has the right characteristics for us. He is a very technical player who can play between the lines of the opponent. For us that could be very important.
"I'm very happy and now I think the squad is complete."
Chelsea's decision to make Kepa the world's most expensive goalkeeper raised eyebrows across the football world, and Sarri admitted that it may take some time for the 23-year-old to justify his vast price tag with performances to match those produced by Courtois at Stamford Bridge.
Asked if Kepa is as good as Courtois, Sarri said: "Not at the moment, for sure. But he's very young, 23 I think. So I hope he can improve very fast. But, for the moment, he's not Courtois, of course."
Chelsea remain focused on keeping Hazard in spite of Madrid's interest, and hope to tie him to a new long-term extension before he enters the final year of his current contract next summer. For now though, Sarri has no doubt over his commitment to the cause.
"Hazard is with us," he added. "I have spoken with him three, four times for everything & he never said something about the market. He's very happy to stay here.
"I think it's impossible [to sell now] because here the market is closed, so we can't change such important players now."
Chelsea will, however, make use of the Aug. 31 transfer deadline elsewhere in Europe to either sell or loan out some of the players on the fringes of the first-team reckoning. Kurt Zouma's season-long loan move to Everton will be confirmed imminently, while reports in Italy claim Tiemoue Bakayoko is close to completing a season-long loan move to AC Milan.
"Now I think the squad is too large, so I think some players have to go on loan," he said. "But I don't know who at the moment. I prefer to have 23, 24 players, and three or four very young players. No more."
Sarri takes charge of his first Premier League match against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. He would not be drawn on whether or not Kepa will make his debut, but did confirm his choice of captain for the match.
"For tomorrow, I think Azpilicueta," he revealed. "But it's not the final decision. I want to know well the players. I want to know well the man. Then, when my idea is clear, I will make a decision. The final one."