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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