Eden Hazard Chelsea 2019 Europa League finalGetty Images

'Hazard should have been the best player in the world' - Cole explains why former Chelsea star hasn't reached Ronaldo & Messi levels

Joe Cole has explained why Eden Hazard hasn't reached the same levels as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, expressing his belief that the former Chelsea star "should have been the best player in the world".

Hazard began his career at Lille in 2007 before being snapped up by Chelsea five years later, and quickly established himself as a cult hero at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium international helped the Blues to win six trophies, including two Premier League titles, and scored 110 goals for the club, but has suffered a dramatic fall from grace since moving to Real Madrid in 2019.

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What's been said?

Cole, who also took in a successful spell at Chelsea between 2003 and 2010, witnessed Hazard's talents up close while he was on loan at Lille for the 2011-12 season.

He feels that the winger was at the peak of his powers in 2018 and should have won the Ballon d'Or ahead of Luka Modric, but has also suggested that his mentality has held him back from becoming one of the game's true greats.

"He should have been the best player in the world,” Cole told The Athletic. “That little spell where Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or – that should have been Eden Hazard. But he lives his life to be happy. To be content. And there’s plenty to be said for that.

“He’s a beautiful artist. The best I ever played with. He’s not got the mindset of a Ronaldo or a Messi, and that’s fine. He’s given so much joy to Lille and Chelsea fans over the years and won so many trophies that he should be proud. He achieved it all playing with a smile on his face, enjoying himself."

Hazard's struggles at Madrid

Hazard has been a shadow of the player he was at Chelsea since arriving at Santiago Bernabeu, failing to live up to his €100 million (£83m/$113m) price tag amid persistent struggles with injury.

The 31-year-old has recorded just six goals and 10 assists in 65 games for Madrid to date and has only found the net once so far this season, but Cole says he shouldn't have any regrets over how his career has panned out.

“I know Real Madrid hasn’t worked out, but there is no call for regrets," he said.

"He couldn’t have lived a life like Cristiano Ronaldo. You know, ice baths at 1am and all that… that’s not him.

"If he had, he probably would have won every personal award out there. But Eden did things his way.

"He’s a family man, and there’s a real balance to be struck in terms of sporting greatness and your life off the pitch."

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