Jose Mourinho has defended the recent form of Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic, insisting the Belgium star remains “the best player in England”.
Hazard has struggled this term to hit the form which saw him crowned the Premier League’s Player of the Season in 2014-15 and blazed a penalty over the crossbar in the 4-0 Champions League win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Ivanovic, too, has received heavy criticism for his performances so far this term, with some reports claiming Mourinho is already on the lookout for the Serbia man’s long-term replacement.
“He [Hazard] is the best player in England,” was Mourinho’s response to the critics on Friday. “As I was saying the other day, because [Wayne] Rooney doesn’t score for three games, it doesn’t mean he is a bad player.
“Eden is the best in this country. The best will be the best again. I don’t know if it’s tomorrow or next week, but one of these days he’ll be man of the match.”
Hazard is also set to stay as Chelsea’s first-choice penalty taker, with Mourinho offering an alternative explanation for his miss on Wednesday.
He added: “Maybe he had an agreement with some sponsor to promote the Rugby World Cup. He’s the best penalty taker in this country, too. He is my first option.”
The former Porto boss claimed speculation over Ivanovic’s future was merely “something you [the media] said, not me” as he gave his backing to the 31-year-old and club captain John Terry.
“Terry is a player of my total confidence,” Mourinho continued. “Because he’s on the bench one game and I take him off at half-time, nothing changes. I don’t know if Terry will start. He is the captain, one of the good faces.
“You don’t see me being critic with him [Ivanovic]. I don’t think the question is for me, I’m not trying to isolate individual players from the context.”
Mourinho again responded to Steven Gerrard’s suggestion of a rift between the manager and Terry and criticised the media for attempting to pin Chelsea’s poor recent results on dressing-room problems.
“I like Gerrard very much, I have a good relationship with him, he does his job amazingly well as a footballer. As a pundit, he said something that is not true,” Mourinho explained.
“Normally, when bad results happen, the first thing that comes into your laptops, iPads, is to find a dramatic story. ‘Somebody punched somebody in the dressing room,’ ‘Diego Costa fought with John Terry and brought a translator so they could understand the fight’.
“‘Mourinho doesn’t want to give a new contract to John and Ivanovic’, ‘Mourinho instructs the scouts to find a right-back urgently’. You always go in this direction, which is fun.
“The direction you don’t go in is real. You don’t want the ball, you fear it. You fear the worst when the ball goes into the box.
“You can try to find every answer for the bad results. The bad relation between myself and the players, but go for my bad options, bad changes, the weather. But problems between me and my players? I can promise you – zero.”