Eden Hazard was on the cusp of signing for Manchester United until a fateful meeting with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich aboard the billionaire's private yacht, according to the Belgian's former Lille teammate.
After bursting on the scene as a teenager, Hazard built a reputation as one of Europe's most revered young talents, helping Lille win the 2010-11 Ligue 1 title. While he opted to remain in France for one more season after that triumph, the youngster seemed destined to join one of the Premier League elite, with United and Chelsea quickly becoming the favourites to secure his services.
When the time came, the playmaker infamously announced his decision in the weeks following Chelsea's Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich, tweeting to his followers; "I am signing for the Champions League winner," before joining the Blues for £32m ($49.5m).
But according to his former Lille teammate, Tulio de Melo, now playing for Brazilian side Chapecoense, Hazard had already verbally agreed a move to Old Trafford. Recalling the weeks after Lille's 2012 title triumph, the Brazilian striker explained in an interview with ESPN Brasil how the entire squad was invited to the Cannes Film Festival, which was also attended by the Chelsea owner.
"It was pretty much agreed that he would go to Manchester United, but there were other clubs wanting him," Melo, who also describes Hazard as a "good friend", told the website. "But the owner of Chelsea was there with his yacht in the city. One day, we [the Lille squad] were getting ready to watch a film at the festival when Hazard appeared and said: 'I won't be able to go with you, I have to go to a meeting with my agent and Abramovich.'
"Then when he came back we were all having dinner at a restaurant. Hazard arrived with a smile from ear to ear and said: 'Yeah... I think I am going there [Chelsea], I think he [Abramovich] convinced me.' Soon after, the deal was done quickly and he was playing at Chelsea."
Hazard's rise continued at Chelsea, culminating in Premier League title success in the 2014-15 season, a campaign where he was also named the PFA player of the year. The Belgium international has struggled this season, however, with manager Jose Mourinho leaving him out of his starting XI in the club's last league game, against Aston Villa on 17 October.