Eden Hazard must score more to be like Ronaldo and Messi - Conte
LONDON -- Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said Eden Hazard must score more goals if he is to be considered in the same bracket as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hazard has scored five times in 14 Premier League appearances this season, having missed preseason and the first month of the campaign as he recovered from a broken ankle suffered while playing for Belgium in June.
His best return in five full seasons at Stamford Bridge is the 16 Premier League goals that helped Chelsea to the title last season and saw him come 19th in this year's Ballon d'Or, won for the fifth time by Ronaldo.
It has been suggested that Hazard could one day claim the award himself, but Conte said there was still room for improvement and told a news conference: "He could score more.
"If you see the stats, you understand that he can score more goals. That is an aspect he can improve.
"When you are a striker, or a No. 10, your speciality must be to score. I think in this aspect he has a lot of space for improvement. But don't forget he's younger than them [Ronaldo and Messi]."
Hazard's future at Chelsea has become the subject of speculation after his father told Belgian newspaper Le Soir that he was keeping his options open rather than signing a contract extension in the hope of encouraging interest from Real Madrid.
Madrid are long-term admirers of Hazard and are coached by his boyhood idol Zinedine Zidane.
Chelsea's position is that no formal contract offer has yet been made to Hazard, whose deal runs until June 2020, but they are committed to trying to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
Conte said he believed the Belgium international had no need to move as long as he believes he can achieve his career goals with Chelsea.
"If you are in a great club and you trust in the club and the ambition of the club, I think it's right to stay," he said.
"I must be honest, I didn't read the comments from his father. I think, in the world, everyone has to respect the opinion of everyone else. In this case, I have to respect the opinion.
"I repeat, I didn't read this. But I think we are talking about a really good guy, and it's normal that if you think you stay in a great club with great ambition, it's right to stay. Otherwise, everyone has to give a different opinion."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.