Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes juggling Premier League and Champions League commitments this season will elevate Eden Hazard to the summit of the world game.
The Belgian made only his second start of the season in Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid, but it was a display of dazzling quality that was integral to the Blues’ 2-1 win.
Team-mate Alvaro Morata has described the 26-year-old as one of the three best players in the world, and Conte is confident Hazard can prove his class on dual fronts this season, as Chelsea prepare to host title rivals Manchester City on Saturday.
“Eden for sure is a top player,” said Conte. “I think in this season he has a big opportunity because we can play in the Champions League.
“I think the Champions League, together with the Premier League, is important for a player to show you are a top player and can compete to be the best. I think this is very important this season.
“I’m pleased because, after a bad injury, now he’s fit. He’s in good form. His season is starting. I think this season has started for him with a big game against Atletico Madrid, and now he has to show this season that he deserves to stay at the top with the best.”
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Hazard’s desire to reach the very top has been questioned by some in the past, and Conte wants to see the attacker channel the hunger of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi this season.
“I think that, sometimes, if Eden scores one goal he’s happy and then, if there is another situation, he prefers to make an assist rather than scoring twice,” Conte added.
“I see, for Ronaldo, that if he scores once he wants two, three, four. It’s the same for Messi. Yes, he can improve.
“It’s very important that he is important in every game for us, to make chances, to score or to provide assists for our players. Very important.”
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