By Peter Hall
BAKU (Reuters) – Chelsea defender David Luiz said Callum Hudson-Odoi can fill the void a potential Eden Hazard departure could leave at Stamford Bridge, while praising manager Maurizio Sarri after the club’s Europa League triumph.
Chelsea stormed to a 4-1 success in Baku in the early hours of Thursday thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud, Pedro and a double from Hazard, who once again proved his worth to the club he has served for seven seasons.
Hazard’s double took him to 21 goals this season for Chelsea — eight more than any team-mate in all competitions — but they could be his last for the club, with a move to Real Madrid likely, something the player himself wants.
Chelsea look set to have a transfer ban imposed on them for next season, unless they can overturn the decision by FIFA, but Luiz believes 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi can step into Hazard’s place.
“Either Messi or Ronaldo,” Luiz joked when asked by reporters who could replace Hazard. “I think if he goes I just wish him all the best.
“He is a fantastic player, friend and guy. I’ve known him ever since he was here at so young. I am so happy for him because the world knows who Eden Hazard is.
“We have many (who could replace Hazard). Callum (Hudson-Odoi) is great.
“Callum has known this club since he was young and he has the talents to one day try to be like Eden.
“It is a new story for Callum. It didn’t start so well because of the injury but it is time for him to improve in other sides (of his game).”
A euphoric Luiz also took the opportunity’s to praise Chelsea’s often-criticised manager Sarri for his role in the Blues’ success on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
“That’s the problem of playing for a big club,” Luiz added.
“It’s his first season at Chelsea, his first in English football. I think he did great.
“He is a great person, a great guy, a great manager and we finished in the best way for him because we finished winning a trophy in his way.
“Even after we conceded a goal … we continued to play his philosophy and continued to try and score more goals. It was the best end of the season for him and he deserved that.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)