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Hazard is Chelsea's best ever foreign import: Zola

 

Gianfranco Zola has applauded Eden Hazard’s contribution to Chelsea (Steven Paston/PA)
Gianfranco Zola has applauded Eden Hazard’s contribution to Chelsea (Steven Paston/PA)

By Nick Purewal

Gianfranco Zola has hailed Eden Hazard as Chelsea's greatest foreign import.

Assistant coach Zola, who scored 80 goals in 312 Chelsea appearances between 1996 and 2003, needed no time to put Hazard top of the Stamford Bridge pile for overseas recruits.

Ivory Coast hitman Didier Drogba and Zola would doubtless be at the forefront of fans' minds when drawing up a list of Chelsea's all-time great imports.

But Zola is adamant Hazard must top that chart, while admitting he still holds out hope the Belgium playmaker will not depart for Real Madrid.

"Eden Hazard's definitely at the very top," said Zola, ranking the 28-year-old as Chelsea's best ever overseas signing.

"He's such an unbelievable player. The more I've spent time with him the more I appreciate him as a player, but also as a boy.

"He's been great. I would love to have him for longer. What we are trying to do here perfectly suits him. It's no coincidence that he's having his best season."

Madrid are expected to lure Hazard away from Chelsea - who take a 1-0 advantage into tonight's Europa League quarter-final second leg at home to Slavia Prague - this summer, with the Belgium star's current deal expiring at the end of next season.

Chelsea continue to hold out for £100m however, with Real boss Zinedine Zidane keen to add the livewire forward to his Bernabeu rebuilding project.

Hazard has 85 goals and 81 assists from his 241 Premier League appearances for Chelsea since his 2012 debut.

Zola insisted the Blues can still pull off a strong end to the campaign by winning the Europa League and finishing fourth in the Premier League.

"There's a lot of talking around this team, I realise that," said Zola. "But we as coaches have to make sure we are not distracted by all of that. We need to maintain focus."

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