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Hazard placed above Drogba & Zola in Chelsea pecking order as transfer talk rages on

11:27 SAST 2019/04/18
Eden Hazard Chelsea 2018-19
One of the Blues' most successful foreign imports considers the Belgian star to be the best that the club has ever acquired from abroad

Gianfranco Zola is considered by many to be Chelsea’s finest ever player, but he believes Eden Hazard is the best overseas import to have been acquired by the Blues.

Many foreign superstars have graced the books at Stamford Bridge down the years.

Former Italy international Zola is among the most revered, recording 80 goals in 312 appearances between 1996 and 2003.

Among the others to have scaled similar heights is Didier Drogba, with the Ivorian striker helping to secure Premier League and Champions League crowns across two spells with the Blues.

Zola, though, believes that icons of the past now find themselves living in the shadow of the Belgian forward who has become a talismanic presence since being snapped up in 2012.

The man who is back at Chelsea as assistant coach to Maurizio Sarri has said when quizzed on the pecking order of foreign talent: “Eden Hazard's definitely at the very top.

“He's such an unbelievable player. The more I've spent time with him the more I appreciate him as a player, but also as a boy.

“He's been great. I would love to have him for longer. What we are trying to do here perfectly suits him. It's no coincidence that he's having his best season.

“I don't want to take anything away from him and what he has achieved. But certainly, the way we play helps him a lot.”

Hazard has delivered 85 goals and 81 assists across 241 Premier League appearances for Chelsea and is very much the main man under Sarri.

Questions continue to be asked of his future, though, with a move to Real Madrid being mooted as he approaches the final 12 months of his contract.

Zola added on the 28-year-old: “Of course we hope that Hazard will stay with us because he's such an important player for us.

“There's a lot of talking around this team, I realise that.

“But we as coaches have to make sure we are not distracted by all of that.

“We need to maintain focus because this year a lot of times I heard talk that it's been a bad season.

“But if we can reach the final and maybe win the Europa League and end up fourth in the Premier League, I think it could be a remarkable season.”

Chelsea, who are chasing down a top-four finish in the Premier League this season, are back in continental action on Thursday when they take in the second leg of a Europa League quarter-final clash with Slavia Prague that they currently lead 1-0 on aggregate.