Eden Hazard may struggle to match the goalscoring exploits of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but Cesar Azpilicueta believes the Chelsea forward is capable of becoming “the best”.
The Belgium international has enjoyed a stunning start to the 2018-19 campaign, finding the target five times in as many games – with that haul including a hat-trick against Cardiff.
Maurizio Sarri has already suggested that the 27-year-old could be considered the finest player in Europe, while also challenging him to net 40 times this season.
Azpilicueta believes reaching that target will be tough in the Premier League, but is convinced that Stamford Bridge's talisman can join the global elite at the very top of the game.
“He has that quality of eliminating defenders. It's amazing.
“But this season he is adding goals and assists. Sometimes he was playing very good but maybe not selfish; he always gives passes to team-mates.
“Messi, Cristiano, they score 50 goals a year and that is very difficult in England. But from his point of view, if he's more aggressive in the box by scoring goals and making assists, he will be the top of his game.
“In normal play he can create chances. It looks very easy. He goes quick, he scores with both feet.
“Eden has all the qualities to be the best. And his personality as well, the way he behaves.
“He's the best player in the team but the way he respects everyone, he's a normal person. That's amazing to have the best player and his behaviour and everyone loves him in the club. That's as important as his work on the pitch.”
Hazard has helped Chelsea to burst out of the blocks in the current campaign, with 15 points collected from five Premier League outings to date.
It is hoped that those standards can be maintained, with Azpilicueta looking for the Blues to avoid slipping far behind Manchester City again and land him a third English top-flight title.
He added: “The gap was very big and obviously it was a disappointing season in the Premier League because we missed out on the Champions League.
“It's up to us to close that gap. We have to work hard and if we keep working the way we are doing, we can be close to City.
“We have to show it on the pitch. Off the pitch it's silly to talk about. Two years ago, when we won the title, it was opposite. We were top of the table and they couldn't get us.
“Mentality is key in winning the league. It's a very tough league and you have to fight against very good teams. No team give you any gifts. The moment to tell about this is on the pitch — and in May.”
Chelsea are back in Premier League action on Sunday when they travel to West Ham, with victory by at least two clear goals required in that contest to life them back above Liverpool at the top of the table.