Eden Hazard: Best years ahead of me
Chelsea star Eden Hazard has warned he is only going to get better after Jose Mourinho described him as “the best young player in the world.”
Hazard, 23, has been in irresistible form for Chelsea in recent weeks, helping inspire their 1-0 triumph at Manchester City before dismantling Newcastle United almost single-handedly last weekend, scoring a hat trick in the 3-0 win to take his season's tally to 12 league goals -- three more than in the whole of the last campaign.
Already a sought-after talent having come through the ranks at Lille, Hazard is now one of the planet's most-wanted players. His boyhood idols, Paris Saint-Germain, are reportedly particularly keen to bring him back across the Channel, with their captain, Thiago Silva, recently talking up a potential move.
However, Mourinho said last month that there was "no chance" Hazard would join PSG, and the Belgium international has said he is determined to exploit his massive potential at Stamford Bridge.
"There was never a question of leaving Chelsea. I feel good at this club, and I still have a lot of things to do here," Hazard, who signed a five-year deal when he moved to west London in summer 2012, told L’Equipe.
"I'm flattered to read that PSG are interested in me, but that doesn't worry me. I am certain of what I have in mind, where I'm going. No one will change my mind. The objective is to be the best with Chelsea. A youngster like me learns on a daily basis by being in contact with seasoned pros like [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry, [Petr] Cech, [Samuel] Eto'o. They have won so many things. I try to inspire myself from what they do on a daily basis. It makes me grow. That's why I think my best years are ahead of me."
Hazard said he may need to wait before picking up European football's biggest prize with Chelsea, but added that their recent triumph at City augured well for their domestic ambitions.
He said: "I don't think the Champions League is for us this year, because there are better teams than us. The Premier League, we'll see. If we play every game like we did at City, we'll be champions. I'm not going to do anything by myself though. If we manage to win titles, it'll be thanks to the team."
Should Hazard continue his meteoric rise, his ambition of becoming the best player in the world will undoubtedly become a realistic possibility. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated the Ballon d’Or award in recent seasons, but Hazard sees no reason he cannot soon challenge their hegemony if he remains on an upward trajectory.
"I'm a lot younger than them. They have a list of honours that I don't have. Other than that, they had nothing more than me when they were my age. If I want to be like them one day, I'll do that by winning titles. It's up to me to set to work doing that," Hazard, who won Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France with Lille in 2011, said.
"I'm on the right track, but I tell myself I still have a lot of things to do in big games. You have to score all the time. Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], Ronaldo and Messi score all the time. I have to work still more to get up to their level."
Given his progress under Jose Mourinho, and the unrelenting demands of the Portuguese coach, Hazard will be given little time to rest on his laurels. The former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss has been full of praise for his attacking midfielder in recent weeks, and the feeling of appreciation is mutual.
"What he has won speaks for itself. Wherever he has gone, he has won trophies. No one had managed to win at Manchester City," Hazard said. "There is no competition. That those who still doubted his potential stop. He has already shown he's the best coach in the world."
Having been given his chance at Lille as a 16-year-old by Claude Puel, Hazard's talent really flourished under Rudi Garcia, culminating in him underpinning the northerners' domestic double in 2011.
Garcia, now at Roma, told L'Equipe his former protege has the attributes to not only impress for his club but also to take his country to greater heights.
Garcia said: "In England, he has taken on an extra dimension. He's now capable of making the difference in big games, such as in the Champions League or against Manchester City recently. That's when people are expecting great players to do things.
"I hope he wins the Ballon d'Or one day. He even dreams about it himself. There is stiff competition, but he has the potential. When I see him, he has the same mental and athletic qualities, the same ability to penetrate, the same vision of the game. He could just be a little more clinical, even if he is increasingly so for Chelsea. In the national team, he's become indispensable, which wasn't the case when he was at Lille. With him, Belgium could reach the last four of the World Cup."