Mohamed Salah 'did not get his chance at Chelsea' - Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has claimed that Mohamed Salah was never given a chance to prove himself at Chelsea and added that he will look to swap shirts with the Egypt international after the Blues face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
Salah has made a sensational return to the Premier League since joining Liverpool from Roma for £34 million in the summer, surging to the top of the division's scoring charts with nine goals in 12 appearances.
His prolific form has surprised many who followed his fortunes at Chelsea, where he was signed from Basel for £11m in January 2014 to replace Juan Mata but made just 19 appearances in all competitions under Jose Mourinho before being sent on loan to Fiorentina and Roma, eventually joining the latter on a permanent deal for £12m.
Hazard, however, insisted he always knew how talented Salah was, adding that he is happy to see the spectacular rise the Egyptian has enjoyed since leaving Stamford Bridge.
"He is still my friend and we are still in contact," Hazard said of Salah. "He's a top, top, top player. He did not get his chance at Chelsea -- maybe because of the manager, because of the other players? I don't know.
"He has quality but in that period I remember we had me, Willian, Oscar, so for him it was not easy. But he's a top player, for sure, and we know as a team the quality he has. He is a fantastic striker and this season he has scored a lot of goals.
"In training he would do everything. Even in the games when he was playing, sometimes he would score goals, so we knew the quality he had. I am just happy for him.
"When you are not playing at a club you need to go. You need a chance and he took his chance at Fiorentina, so he did everything that you have to do when you are not playing. If I was not playing, I'd want to go. That's normal because of all the players want to play.
"I watched him when he played for Roma -- one of my friends from the national team, Radja Nainggolan, is also there -- and he did very well.
"Now he is still at the top. And then even with his country he did well to reach the World Cup. At Liverpool he is still doing well, so I think we need to be careful with him. I want to ask him for his shirt, for sure, on Saturday."
Chelsea take on Liverpool at Anfield less than 72 hours after completing a 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the Champions League, and head coach Antonio Conte believes the Premier League champions deserve more "respect" from the fixture schedule -- but Hazard insisted the Blues will be ready physically and mentally.
"I am feeling good, 100 percent," he added. "A lot of players didn't play on Wednesday and I played only 60 minutes and N'Golo [Kante] also came off, so we can be fresh on Saturday, even if the game is close.
"We are professional; we can deal with this. We will do everything; we will do recovery and we will see on Saturday. Confidence is high; everything is in our hands to win games."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.