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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

Willian set to stay at Chelsea as Luiz urges Courtois and Hazard to follow suit

Brazilian midfielder had been a target for Barcelona but insists 'my head is here' at Chelsea

Willian, left, appeared as a second-half substitute for Chelsea in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City. Reuters
Willian, left, appeared as a second-half substitute for Chelsea in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City. Reuters

Brazilian midfielder Willian has outlined his plans to remain at Chelsea, while compatriot and teammate David Luiz has urged Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard to stay at Stamford Bridge.

Willian, 29, had been linked with a move away from Chelsea this summer after the Premier League club rejected a number of approaches from Primera Liga champions Barcelona.

Further doubt was cast over the Brazil international's future when he returned for pre-season duty five days late due to his expired passport, with new manager Maurizio Sarri describing the episode as "strange" and demanding talks with the player.

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However, after discussions between the pair, Sarri said he was "confident" Willian would remain at Chelsea, a stance echoed by the player himself.

"I'm a Chelsea player," Willian told ESPN Brasil. "I always made it clear that what I wanted was to stay in the club.

"The only club I knew that really made an official offer for me was Barcelona. But I have my head here and I intend to continue in the club unless the club wants to sell me. But my head is here in the club."

While Willian's Chelsea future seems to have been settled, there is still uncertainty surrounding Belgian duo Courtois and Hazard.

Courtois, 26, has a year remaining on his contract and has been repeatedly linked with a move to Real Madrid. Chelsea risk losing him for a reduced fee in January or for free next summer.

The former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has repeatedly stated his desire to move closer to his two children in the Spanish capital.

Hazard, whose deal expires in 2020, has stalled over a new contract offer and has long been the subject of speculation over a move to Real.

"Chelsea wants for the best players to stay," Luiz said. "They know Chelsea a lot, so they know what they've had here, the fun they've had here. Everybody loves them and I hope they can stay."

Sarri said he would sanction Courtois' departure if the goalkeeper expresses a desire to leave following Sunday's Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.

The transfer window for incoming players to Premier League clubs closes this Thursday, but Luiz is adamant Chelsea have enough quality even if Courtois and Hazard go.

"I want them to stay, because we have top players with the confidence," Luiz said. "If they decide to leave, I think we will continue with fantastic players."

Luiz himself was sidelined by injury and a fallout with former manager Antonio Conte for most of last season. But after starting on Sunday, Luis insists he never contemplated leaving Chelsea for a second time.

"I was just working and trying to do my best," Luiz said. "Everybody has the opportunity, you just have to show him character, physical quality, technical quality, so since the first day I'm trying to do that."

The 59-year-old Italian's style has been likened to Pep Guardiola's, but while City gave the Catalan time to adjust in his first season in England, Sarri is unlikely to be afforded the same patience.

"I hope we can understand it quickly and can fight for all the titles," Luiz said. "When you play for a big club you have to be ready to try to fight for the titles, and we're going to fight for that."

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