Eden Hazard might be the best player in Europe and has the capability to score 40 goals in a season, according to his manager Maurizio Sarri.
The Chelsea attacker’s talents were on full display again Saturday as his hat-trick led the Blues to a 4-1 win over Cardiff City, which made it five wins in five games for the club and vaulted them above Liverpool atop the Premier League table on goal difference.
After a summer of speculation and Hazard’s own words linking him with a Chelsea exit, the Belgium international has enjoyed a masterful start to the campaign with five goals and two assists thus far.
It is a beginning that has the Chelsea boss singing Hazard’s praises, believing he might just be the top player in Europe at the moment, with some room to improve yet.
“Maybe," Sarri told reporters when asked if Hazard is the top player in the Premier League. "I thought Hazard was one of the best players in Europe, but now I am changing my mind that he is the best. I think Hazard can improve more. I think that he can spend less energy than now at 50 or 60 metres to the opposite goal.”
Sarri clarified he was not talking about defending, but Hazard’s work in Chelsea’s build up. Should Hazard do that, then a 40-goal campaign is not out of the question.
“When we have the ball in our half he touches the ball five times or six times,” Sarri explained. “So his actions, it shows he spends a lot of energies, and can have more energy in the last 25 metres. I think he can score 30 or 35 goals.
“I have spoken to him in the last two days, yesterday I told him for me he can score 40 goals. But spend less energy far from the goal and play in the last 25 metres.”
Much like Hazard’s summer of uncertainty, Chelsea endured their own questions following the 2017-18 campaign which saw a delayed exit to Antonio Conte’s time at the club while Sarri’s arrival also took longer than expected to complete.
All of that seemed to make a difficult start likely and Sarri is quite pleased his players have managed a blemish-free opening in the Premier League.
“I am very happy because I thought the beginning for me has been very difficult,” Sarri said. “I have been lucky because I have good players, not just one, but good players. I am very happy with my team, to be here and play in the Premier League.”
Yet, despite being top of the table, Sarri believes his team are not yet the title favourites, thinking both Liverpool and Manchester City are the clubs to beat.
“I cannot change my mind [after] one match,” Sarri added when asked if his team were the favourites. “I think that at this moment Liverpool and Manchester City are another step than us. But I think we can improve.
“My target is to be the best team in England, but not in one month. Maybe one season, maybe a little more.
“But at the moment, I repeat, for me in my opinion Liverpool and Manchester City are better than us.”
Specifically, Sarri wants his team to be tighter at the back and on set-pieces, though he thinks his side will be able to make those improvements.
“I think in this moment we are very dangerous in the offensive phase but we are not so solid as I want in the defensive phase,” he said. “Today we knew that this opponent is very strong in the set-pieces but we were not ready to answer.
“We need to improve, but we are able to and can improve very quickly.”