Irish Sunday Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By TOM HOPKINSON at Stam­ford Bridge

MAU­R­IZIO SARRI claimed Eden Hazard is bet­ter than Lionel Messi and Cris­tiano Ronaldo by dub­bing him the best player in Europe.

Hazard struck a hat-trick, with Wil­lian also on tar­get, as new league lead­ers Chelsea made short work of Cardiff.

The vic­tory made it five out of five for the Blues and put them ahead of Liver­pool, the only other side with a 100 per cent record, on goal dif­fer­ence. Asked if Hazard was the best player in the Premier League, Sarri (be­low) didn’t just limit his an­swer to Eng­land.

He said: “I thought Hazard was one of the best play­ers in Europe, but now I change my mind. “Maybe he is the best now.” Wor­ry­ingly for Chelsea’s top-flight ri­vals, Sarri added: “Hazard can im­prove more.

“He can score 40 goals, but also to spend less en­ergy far from the goal and play in the last 25 me­tres.”

Hazard was de­lighted with the re­sult on the back of the in­ter­na­tional break. He ad­mit­ted: “The game was very tough. We know af­ter the break it is hard to play a good game be­cause we are a bit tired, but, in the end, we got three points and that’s im­por­tant. “We scored four goals, but we can play bet­ter.” Hazard’s third goal came from the penalty spot af­ter his first two had been set up by Olivier Giroud. The Bel­gian paid trib­ute to his team-mate, adding: “Giroud is a tar­get man and maybe the best in the world. “It’s a plea­sure to play with him.”

I told him (Hazard) he can score 40 goals... and to play in the last 25 me­tres

MAU­R­IZIO SARRI spent three weeks in the sum­mer fret­ting that Eden Hazard might turn his back on Chelsea.

And that was be­fore he’d had the chance to see the Bel­gian up close and per­sonal in train­ing.

So good­ness only knows how con­cerned the new Blues boss would have been had he known then what he knows now about the player’s true ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Hazard had scored in each of his last two games com­ing into this fix­ture and his tre­ble here made it five in three and turned this game on its head.

He struck twice be­fore the break af­ter Sol Bamba had put Cardiff in front.

And he calmly com­pleted his hat-trick from the penalty spot af­ter the break fol­low­ing a clumsy chal­lenge on Wil­lian by the Cardiff goalscorer.

Wil­lian was only on the field for 30-odd min­utes all told, af­ter com­ing on as a re­place­ment for Pe­dro.

But his im­pact was great and he rounded off Chelsea’s scor­ing with a peach of a goal, curl­ing it be­yond Neil Etheridge from 20 yards.

That strike moved Chelsea ahead of Liver­pool at the top of the ta­ble on goal dif­fer­ence, with both sides re­tain­ing their 100 per cent record.

And the Blues’ vic­tory saw Sarri be­come only the fourth man­ager to win his first five matches in the Premier League, af­ter Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardi­ola and, erm, Craig Shake­speare.

Now the chal­lenge for Chelsea is to match the eight straight games Sarri’s Napoli side won in Serie A at the start of last sea­son and they will have to beat West Ham, Liver­pool and Southamp­ton to do it.

Sarri said: “I am very happy be­cause I thought the be­gin­ning was very dif­fi­cult.

“I have been lucky be­cause I have good play­ers – not just one.

“I am very happy with my team, to be here and play in the Premier League.”

The one he’s re­fer­ring to, of course, is Hazard, who has wowed his man­ager since re­port­ing back fol­low­ing the World Cup.

And asked whether Hazard is the best player in the top flight, the Ital­ian didn’t hold back on the praise.

He added: “I thought Hazard was one of the best play­ers in Europe, but now I have changed my mind – maybe he is the best now.”

Sarri thinks there is more to come from Hazard though, which must be some­thing of a worry for Chelsea’s ri­vals.

“I have spo­ken to him in the last two days,” said the Chelsea man­ager.

“I told him he can score 40 goals but also to spend less en­ergy far from the goal and play in the last 25 me­tres.”

For Cardiff, the wait goes on for their first win of the Premier League sea­son and Neil Warnock wants his side to learn quickly at this level. He said: “I’m re­ally dis­ap­pointed un­der­neath with the goals we con­ceded.”

Bamba bun­dled home Sean Mor­ri­son’s header back across goal but then two good Chelsea moves led to Olivier Giroud lay­ing balls off to Hazard and him scor­ing from them both.

“He is a tar­get man and maybe the best in the world,” said Hazard of Giroud. “It is a plea­sure to play with him.”

Bamba’s foul on Wil­lian led to Hazard’s third and the Brazil­ian wrapped up the game late on.

Warnock said: “I knew it was go­ing to be a penalty 15 yards be­fore he tack­led him.

“I thought: ‘Wil­lian is too quick and Sol’s go­ing to tackle, he’s not go­ing to hold, not at this time of the day when he is get­ting tired’.

“So it was a fully ex­pected penalty, which was his only mis­take. He has had a good game.”

THE SLIDE SHOW Eden Hazard cel­e­brates as Chelsea romp home against Cardiff City at the Bridge SPOT ON Hazard com­pletes his hat-trick with a penalty WHERE THERE’S A WILL... Wil­lian cel­e­brates scor­ing Chelsea’s fourth goal

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