Hazard: Sarri and I think the same way about football
Speculation linking the Belgian to Real Madrid remains strong but the Chelsea star has spoken warmly of his link-up with his manager
Eden Hazard believes he and Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri are on the same footballing wavelength.
The Belgium forward’s next move remains a subject of intense speculation, something he fanned himself this week by declaring he had made a decision on his Chelsea future.
Real Madrid have been heavily linked to the 28-year-old, while mixed returns on the field during Sarri’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge have underpinned the uncertainty.
The 60-year-old Italian has lavished praise on Hazard, declaring him Europe’s best player on Friday, but does not feel a player who captains his country is a leader.
Chelsea face Premier League champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, a dress rehearsal for their meeting in the Carabao Cup final later this month, and Hazard told The Times he feels in tune with Sarri as he tackles the ongoing process over overhauling his club’s style of play.
“He’s an old man but the way he thinks is the same way I think about football,” he said.
“When we have the ball, we have a lot of freedom, not just me but the striker and the right [attacker], Willian or Pedro, so we can move a lot.
“The manager likes possession. He’s a lot about statistics. Numbers. Possession. Shooting. Goal opportunity.
“In the past we used to play more counter-attack. It is different with Sarri than with [Antonio] Conte and [Jose] Mourinho. Sometimes we keep possession, and I understand the fans want us to go forward [more directly], but it is part of the football.
“We are still learning about his concept. We are doing well. I like this kind of football.”
Hazard recently acknowledged his capacity to irritate coaches and stated Mourinho and Conte and others have overestimated his capabilities as a goalscorer, while suggesting Sarri’s observation of him being an individual as opposed to a leader could be wide of the mark.
“I’m not at all selfish. The way I am can be a weakness to be the best player in the world,” he said.
“Managers like Mourinho, Conte, now with Sarri want me to score 40, 50 goals a season but can I do that? I’m not sure. Maybe they think I can, but I know myself and I don’t think I can. But I will try.
“I like to be ‘the star’ but I like also when I can pass the ball to another for him to score and it is not just about me. It’s about everyone. My target is to help the team to win something.”
The goalscoring burden at Chelsea now falls heavily on new arrival Gonzalo Higuain and Hazard senses a fruitful relationship with the Argentina striker.
“I’ve only played two games with Higuain and I know we can do something great together – not only with him but also with the other strikers, the other wingers,” he added.
“Chelsea is not about Higuain and Hazard, it is about 25 players. But Higuain is a fantastic striker.”