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Hazard: I would only leave Chelsea as a champion

Eden Hazard says he would only ever contemplate leaving Chelsea if they are crowned Premier League champions again.

The Belgium international has enjoyed a fine start to 2016-17, scoring seven top-flight goals and being named October’s Premier League player of the month.

That comes after a miserable 2015-16 campaign that saw Hazard fail to score in the league before April and his performances criticised as the Blues struggled to a 10th-place finish under Jose Mourinho and latterly Guus Hiddink.

Hazard was again linked with a move away from Chelsea following the campaign, but the 25-year-old stressed he would never have wanted to leave on such a low note.

“If I ever leave, it’ll be after winning a championship,” Hazard said to The Guardian.

“You need to go out on a high so that people remember you for the right reasons.

“I’m playing without pain now. Last year was complicated. Some people didn’t believe it, but I played with [a hip] injury for a long time.

“I was never 100 per cent and when you are not completely fit it’s hard to play at your best.

“But I had a good break after the Euros, a good pre-season, and was ready. Liberated, yes. It feels like that sometimes, being injury-free and if a system brings the best out of you.

“Back in March I’d spoken [to Antonio Conte] about the difficult season I’d had up to then, and what he expected of me in the year to come.

“His passion and enthusiasm for the job were obvious. I made clear I had no intention of leaving after such a poor year. I didn’t want to go out like that.”

Conte’s 3-4-3 system has been credited for Hazard’s resurgence and the winger is loving life under the Italian.

He continued: “I’d not scored many goals, but he saw me as a goalscorer. He spoke to me about his preferred systems, the 3-4-3 or even with two up front.

“If someone had told us before the season that, if we did everything Conte asked of us, we’d have a chance to become champions again, we’d all have signed up.

“We have bought into it. This is what he wants from us and believes we need to do to achieve something special.

“The change in system has made an impact. It’s such a difficult formation to play against – I played for Belgium against [Conte’s] Italy at the Euros and, even though we saw plenty of the ball, it was so hard to break down that defensive block.

“They only conceded once from open play in five matches, and when teams come up against us now they find they don’t have many sights of goal, either. Personally, it allows me to concentrate more on the attacking parts of the game, the offensive side.”

Chelsea travel to play Middlesbrough on Sunday looking for a sixth consecutive league victory.

Fri 18 Nov, 2016
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