Arsene Wenger: I could take on international role after Arsenal era
An international break wouldn't be an international break without a story or two surfacing that links Chelsea's star man Eden Hazard with a move to Real Madrid.
In recent seasons, the La Liga giants have made no secret of their desire to sign Hazard and more often than not the player has talked up the possibility of heading to the Bernabeu with a few choice remarks while away on duty with Belgium.
The 26-year old was at it again at the weekend, proclaiming it would be a dream to play under Real manager Zinedine Zidane and describing him as his idol. Hazard also said it would be a pleasure to work with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho again, although he diplomatically went on to say he was enjoying life with the Blues and remained focussed on playing for them.
For all the talk, Hazard, now in his sixth season as a Chelsea player, has remained at the Bridge and is a firm favourite with supporters who would be displeased if the club chose to sell the star who is at the peak of his defence-shredding powers and arguably the Premier League's most valuable transfer asset.
Hazard, contracted to Chelsea until June 30, 2020, is reported to be earning £200,000 per week, however a new deal, yet to be signed, has been tabled at a rumoured £300,000 per week.
Should Hazard take up the offer, it would make him the highest paid player in the English game and possibly see him stay at Stamford Bridge for the remainder of his peak years.
Owner Roman Abramovich is clearly happy to make the investment to tie Hazard to the Blues, which indicates his sale would only be sanctioned to pave the way for a spectacular acquisition. Back in 2015 an over-hyped swap deal with Real involving Galactico Gareth Bale failed to materialise and the following year James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata were in the frame for a trade, and to keep things nice and spicy Cristiano Ronaldo's name has also found its way into the equation from time-to-time.
A couple of years ago a deal involving Bale had a certain attraction to it, but now the former Tottenham player -- who has been at the Bernabeu since September 2013 -- appears to be constantly troubled by injuries. Rumours suggest Zidane might be looking to move the 28-year-old and predictably Chelsea are among a number of clubs being touted as a possible destination. Given the Wales international's problems with fitness, Bale appears to be a risky proposition and certainly wouldn't be worth exchanging for Hazard, even if there was a significant cash adjustment in Chelsea's favour.
Neither James nor Morata made the grade to become Galacticos at Real. James found himself farmed out to Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal that scuppered talk of a move to the Bridge while Morata of course signed for Chelsea in the summer in a standalone club-record deal worth an initial £58 million. The Spain international has found his feet and has already forged a productive relationship with Hazard that can only get better.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was pivotal in Morata's move to SW6, the Italian having signed him on loan from Real when boss at Juventus. Conte took over as the coach of the Italy national team before he had a chance to work with the striker, but his longstanding faith in the 24-year-old is paying dividends. Similarly, Hazard has flourished under Conte, who has been careful to manage the Belgian's game time during a recent recovery spell from injury. It's a caring approach that Hazard is certain to appreciate, and as long as Conte remains Chelsea manager, it could be a key factor in him remaining a Blues player.
Headstrong and charismatic, the Italian though appears to regularly be at loggerheads with the Chelsea board, presumably irking Abramovich in the process. Rumours of Conte departing abruptly surface as regularly now as the Hazard-to-Madrid stories, and the supporters who hero worship the boss know only too well there is an inevitability about what will happen to him.
It's not a question of if. It's when. Time will tell if this next managerial hiatus will prove too much disruption for Hazard.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen has told Sky Sports he owes his breakthrough in senior football to Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp.
Bergkamp spent more than a decade at Arsenal, retiring in 2006 before returning to his former club Ajax as assistant manager -- around the same time a teenage Eriksen had joined them.
Denmark international Eriksen, speaking ahead of Saturday's North London derby at the Emirates Stadium, said Bergkamp had played a big part in his development in Amsterdam.
"I felt I was good in Denmark, but I wasn't that good when I arrived at Ajax," he said.
"In my first year at Ajax, we had some sessions with Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk.
"We did this passing drill with a striker from the team. We worked on certain movements, learning how to measure his runs and then passing the ball to exactly the right place at exactly the right moment.
"Even then, you could always see Dennis's charisma and confidence on the ball. He always knew how to take his first touch and where the ball needed to end up afterwards.
"I learned a lot from watching him and working with him. It helped me when I made it through to the first team."
Eriksen left Ajax to join Spurs in 2013 and was managed by both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood in his first season.
He said the continuity brought by current manager Mauricio Pochettino, appointed in May 2014, had been a major part of the club's recent success.
"He has given stability not only to me but to the whole club," Eriksen added.
"That's the main thing for a player. You feel comfortable, you feel aware of everything around you and you don't think about anything other than football when you're on the pitch.
"All the players have long-term contracts. They feel safe being here. It's why you commit your future to a place like this."
Eriksen has only missed five of 125 league games under Pochettino and said: "He gives his players a lot of confidence and he trusts to let them play.
"I have played a lot of games under the manager now. He knows what I'm good for and what I'm not good for, but he trusts me completely.
"You feel that trust and it makes you want to do everything for him."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.
Mike Dean will referee his seventh North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham on Saturday, the Premier League has confirmed.
In 2015, 100,000 Gunners fans signed a petition to ban him from Arsenal games after a controversial loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge that year.
Dean chose not to send off Chelsea striker Diego Costa for a foul and instead gave Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista a red card for retaliating.
He was in charge the last time Arsenal defeated Spurs in a Premier League match in 2014.
However, Arsene Wenger's team have a history of bad results in games in which the 49-year-old has been in charge.
Between August 2009 and January 2013, Arsenal won just two of 18 matches that Dean refereed, losing 11.
The official showed a Premier League-high five red cards last season, and has sent two players off in his previous six North London derbies.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Arsene Wenger has told beIN Sports he could be tempted to take over as coach of a national team once his reign at Arsenal is over.
Wenger has been linked with both the France and England jobs on several occasions, and said the lighter schedule involved in international management could be beneficial as he gets older.
"Maybe, yes, I will do it at some stage. But until now I've liked to be involved every day in the life of a club, because the real test is there," he said.
"Four or five weeks... OK it's a different experience, it's more concentrated. But I believe the real experience to manage a team is on a daily basis.
"But I will not always have the physical strength to do that, so maybe I will move into that [international work]."
Wenger has been in charge at Arsenal for 21 years and was given a new two-year contract in the summer despite missing out on Champions League football for the first time during his Gunners career.
He also serves a TV pundit in France during international breaks and major tournaments, and laughed at the suggestion that he could find himself coaching at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
"Maybe -- you never know," he said. "I haven't decided that, to me it's just a fact that my life is linked with football.
"In what way will depend on my physical state. But until the end of my life I'll be in football. I don't know in what kind [of role], as a director, as a manager.
"As long as possible as a manager, but one day that will stop. But I will stay in football, of course."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.