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Lee Clark: Chelsea should keep Hazard; Scary Man City; Longstaff potential

A transfer ban will make it very difficult for Chelsea to challenge for the title next season.

I know they have finished third and are in the final of the Europa League, so there's a possibility of winning that. But you know from history that that club wants to be challenging for the Premier League title. It's been difficult with the form of Manchester City and Liverpool this season, but Chelsea have always wanted to be going into the last weekend with a chance to win the title. So if they can't get players in to bridge that gap then it's going to be tough.

I don't think the ban will affect Maurizio Sarri. He enjoys working at the club and whenever he speaks he certainly sounds honoured and privileged to manage a club of Chelsea's size and stature. So I don't think the ban will affect his position at the club as long as the club wants him to carry on with his job.

If I was Chelsea, there isn't a shadow of doubt that I would be keeping Eden Hazard and letting him walk for free. I mean I would even considering doing it even if there wasn't a transfer ban. Hazard is that important of a player for Chelsea. He's a fantastic player and he's pushing himself to the highest level of the game with some of the best players in the world, he's getting to that sort of level.

His consistency has been brilliant as well for Chelsea. We know Chelsea aren't short of funds here and there so I would certainly as a club be very reluctant to lose Eden Hazard. And if that means having to let him go for free, I think the club should considering that possibility when you are one of the big clubs. The players should go on your terms.


Unfortunately I don't think Watford have a chance of winning the FA Cup this Saturday. I think it's a fantastic achievement by Watford, who now have a manager who looks like he's settled things down at the club because they seemed to be one who were changing managers quite regularly, but since Javi Gracia's come in there's been stability there. Unfortunately, I can't see anybody beating this Manchester City side.

They are just that good, they are that focused, they are that driven. I was watching the footage and listening to the footage after the weekend's title win and the players were already talking about getting focused and ready to win the FA Cup and the domestic treble. So that tells you how driven those players are. I know how driven Pep is but I think he's instilled that drive into the players.

It's ominous for everybody because they are just relentless in their pursuit of winning trophies. That's what frightened everyone when Pep said last week that City will be stronger again next year. I think everyone was like 'how they can get stronger?' but I think they'll just striving for perfection.

You never get perfection. But Manchester City are striving for it all the time, they just want to be the very, very best and until they achieve that I don't think they're going to stop. And they've got a manager who can push them to those levels, he seems to have the drive and determination and the respect of the world class players that they have, and because of that he can get more out of them, he squeezes more out of each individual every single season and he improves them, even if they are experienced players. If you look at some of the players in that squad they're playing the best football of their careers, he's a unique man.


Salomon Rondon has been brilliant this season and has become the real focal point of this Newcastle team. I was down at Craven Cottage on the weekend watching my two old clubs in action and he played with that inspired game. Whether he's scoring goals or not, he's the focal point of the team.

There's a saying in football: you are only as good as your striker. Newcastle have a very good striker. It allows people to make runs off him because they know he's going to hold the ball up. They know he's got the quality to play little passes in and around corners to help people get on the end of it.

If Newcastle don't go for Rondon and they are looking for a younger version, which is being reported, it's going to cost you a lot more money to find someone of a similar ilk. Obviously experience matters as well, even though he might be getting a bit older, that experience can be great in the dressing room during tough periods just to calm everyone down. Its quite a young squad at Newcastle so if someone of that experience is in and just relaxing people then that can be huge as well.


One of those young players that Newcastle fans should be excited about is Sean Longstaff.

I've spoken about him previously in this column and how much talent he has. I know Sean very well, I gave him his debut in league football when I was manager at Kilmarnock and I'm close with his family, especially his father, who I grew up with.

I know him well and I know there's a lot more to come. He's been outstanding in his breakthrough season but for me, and I keep telling all the Newcastle fans this, there's more to come from Sean Longstaff.

He can be a midfield player that can go out and get 10 goals a season. I believe he is only going to get better and stronger. And it's a great thing for the club. They love to have a one of their own in the squad and I think it's important for a club in this area that there is a group of players who are local, who know the demands of the fans and know what the club is all about.

It also gives all the young lads and staff in the academy a boost because a) they know that manager will give them a chance and b) they are producing the players. The goal now is to produce another few more players to follow Sean and not just stay for a game here or there but be a mainstay for the team and someone who Rafa uses on a regular basis.

Lee Clark
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Lee Clark

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