Belfast Telegraph

Conte tips Hazard to become one of the world's best

By Philip Duncan

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte believes Eden Hazard is back on the right path to becoming one of the world's best players. Hazard, who will line up for the Blues when they entertain Everton in tonight's late kick-off, has inspired his side's run of four successive league victories.

Indeed, Hazard scored in three straight games for the first time in his career with goals against champions Leicester, Manchester United and Southampton, taking his side to within one point of leaders Manchester City.

The Belgium international's form is a far cry from last season. After being crowned the best player in the Premier League in 2015, Hazard appeared to lose his way under former boss Jose Mourinho and had to wait until April 23 to register his first league strike.

"I know the great talent of Eden and he must continue to work and to improve all the time," said Conte. "He is putting his talent and himself in the team. This is fantastic and the right way to become one of the best in the world.

"If you ask me the difference to (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo, I don't want to reply. The only thing that I want to do is work with him, and my players, to try and improve and support them."

Last season, Hazard faced accusations of being unfit, with Guus Hiddink, who replaced Mourinho in December, issuing the Belgian a wake-up call.

"The fitness is important for Eden," Hiddink said at the turn of the year. "He is eager to perform but the physical fitness must be there."

But Hazard has sparkled under Conte, and the Italian hinted that the forward has worked on his physical attributes.

"I don't like to speak about last season and a single player," Conte added. "Now it is another season and I am pleased he performs with the commitment and the work rate for the win that I see during training.

"It is important in this type of modern football that you have the talent and technique, but you must run with intensity and the strength to have the contact. Here in England we play with an intensity that is supersonic."

Belfast Telegraph


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