Eden Hazard has all the attributes required to win the Ballon d’Or, his Chelsea and Belgium team-mate Thibaut Courtois believes.
Hazard was the star turn in a Chelsea side that achieved a Premier League and League Cup double last season, scoring 19 goals in all competitions.
The diminutive forward was rewarded for his individual performances by being named the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the prestigious Ballon d’Or accolade in recent times, with one of the duo having won the award in each of the past seven years.
However, goalkeeper Courtois feels Hazard could muscle his way into the reckoning in the coming years.
“He’s a potential Golden Ball winner. We have to see what Messi and Ronaldo do, two players who are so good that sometimes I don’t think they give a chance to other players,” Courtois told Goal.
“They score so many goals that in this moment it is always one of them who will win the Ballon d’Or.
“But Eden has the capacity of winning it. This season he was decisive for us. Maybe he can be sometimes a little bit more, but we followed his lead to the title.”
Courtois finally forced his way into the first team at Stamford Bridge last term having spent three years on loan at Atletico Madrid, with whom he won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Europa League.
And the 23-year-old says he has had to learn to quickly adapt to the physicality of the Premier League.
“The main difference [between the Premier League and La Liga] is the intensity of the game. The corners, the free-kicks, the crosses into the box,” he added.
“There’s more pressure on you as a goalkeeper but I think I handle it well with the technique I have coming for crosses – it’s what I learned when I was young in Belgium.
“I claimed a lot of crosses this season but there’s more aerial contact with strikers and they don’t whistle that often for a foul. I had to learn that in the beginning but I was aware of it and if you are aware of it in the beginning, you change the chip in your head and you know it will be like that.”