Midweek Sport - - THURSDAY AUGUST 23 - By JON WEST

READ­ING boss Brian Mc­Der­mott has told Roberto Di Mat­teo: I knew Eden Haz­ard was a star long be­fore you did.

Stam­ford Bridge is pre­par­ing to wel­come the £32mil­lion new sign­ing for the first time.

But Mc­Der­mott tried and failed to get him to Read­ing when he was just a teenager.

“I re­mem­ber watch­ing Haz­ard play­ing for Lille when he was 16 and think­ing what a great tal­ent he was then,” said Mc­Der­mott.

“He was phe­nom­e­nal and ev­ery­one there knew what a tal­ent he was go­ing to be. He stood out like the prover­bial sore thumb.

“But you can’t go to a place like Lille and say ‘we’ll take your best player’, it just doesn’t hap­pen.”

Haz­ard made a su­perb Premier League de­but at Wi­gan, but he might not be so ef­fec­tive when the top-flight hard men put a boot up his bot­tom.

But Mc­Der­mott promised none of his play­ers would be try­ing that.

He said: “Go­ing back to when I played you could kick peo­ple out of the league be­cause that’s how it was in those days.

“Now it is not like that, thank God. One tackle now and you get booked – and that’s why the flair play­ers thrive.”

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