French giants to make move for Hazard instead of Mata?

Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata for some time, but could they make a move for another Blues star?

Chelsea have had a solid if unspectacular first half of the season, and sit in third place in the Premier League table, just two points behind leaders Arsenal. But for all the wins that the team have racked up this season, there is still something of a shadow over the team after Jose Mourinho's treatment of Juan Mata.

Spaniard Mata has seen his role reduced under Mourinho, prompting speculation linking the former Valencia man with a move away from Stamford Bridge. A key player under Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto di Matteo and Rafa Benitez during his two and a half year stay in West London so far, but has featured in just 13 of Chelsea's 20 league games this season, contributing only two assists – both numbers short of previous years.

A number of big clubs have been strongly linked with swoops for Mata, such as Inter Milan, Barcelona and even Arsenal, but PSG could be leading the chase for Mata with the impending departures of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore. Laurent Blanc's men are in need of a winger or playmaker, and it was widely expected that they would make a £35m move for 25 year old Mata.

But new rumours suggest that it isn't Mata that the Ligue 1 side are looking to sign from Chelsea, and instead former Lille star Eden Hazard. The Belgian, who is expected to dazzle at the 2014 World Cup, has been Chelsea's key player so far this term, but the incredibly rich French side are believed to be readying a bid to test the Blues' resolve and offer Hazard a return to France where he was so devastating for Lille.

The PSG fans are in no doubt as to which Chelsea star they would prefer, as Hazard topped a recent poll from France Football to determine who they most wanted to see at the Parc des Princes. Mata wasn't even an option in the poll, but Hazard claiming top spot just serves to show just how much they want Blanc to move for Hazard over other options such as Yohan Cabaye and Paul Pogba.

It's unlikely that Chelsea would sell their star player, who turns 23 on Tuesday, given how important he is under Mourinho. With the backing of Roman Abramovich, the Blues are in no need for the money and are even looking to ward off interest from PSG by offering Hazard a new contract. Mata's future on the other hand looks decidedly murky, and would almost certainly be easier to attain than Hazard for the French giants.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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