SPORTbible Speaks To Eden Hazard, The Premier League's Main Man
Life cannot be better for Eden Hazard at the moment. That's the direct quote the Belgian uses to answer the first question of our chat when asked about how much he's enjoying his football under new boss Maurizio Sarri at the moment.
From just being in Hazard's company for a brief period, you get an understanding of how he is able to be so calm and collected on the pitch.
He's remarkably laid back and chilled - though he was hysterical just before our conversation at Chelsea's Cobham training complex when he and Willy Caballero had to put blindfolds on and reach into a box as part of a forfeit for losing a game of darts to Willian and Jorginho.
Still, that carefree approach is working wonders. The former Lille man is in the form of his life at the moment and appears to have gone up another gear under Sarri.
But he did not want to say that he's been freed up by the former Napoli boss, giving a nod to previous managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte for giving him "the freedom to play".
He does, however, note that Chelsea are playing better football and feels the new signings, which include Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in midfield - have made the team much stronger this time around.
"They are top players for sure and Kepa, the goalkeeper - he is a fantastic young goalkeeper with a lot of quality," the Chelsea No.10 told SPORTbible.
"When you bring this kind of guy into the team, the team is better for sure. We lost the best goalkeeper in the world but I think the team is better this year than last season and we can see it every weekend."
Hazard has scored seven goals so far and looks on course to have his individual campaign to date.
Though he's quick to point out that purple patches can change in an instance, he does feel he can have his best goalscoring season - even if he hasn't set himself a target of a number of goals to score, unlike his boss.
Eden Hazard's last 20 games:
- Hazard Stuff (@HazardStuff_) October 4, 2018
"In terms of goals, yes," Hazard quipped.
"At the moment I'm good but in two months it can be different. I just keep practicing on the pitch, training and we will see what happens.
"If I score I'm good, if I don't score and I'm playing good, for me it's perfect. I just need to keep winning games."
There was a lot of speculation surrounding Hazard's future in the summer, with persistent links to Real Madrid. He never let it affect his performances though, skippering Belgium to third place in the World Cup, winning the Silver Ball for the tournament and starting the season like a house on fire.
The big question I have for the 27-year old is whether or not he can be the man to usurp the footballing titans that are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - and what does he have to do to get to their ludicrously consistent level.
His response is short and sweet, yet at the same time the sort of reply that shows he's a man well aware of the task at hand: "Keep this level, scoring goals every game. Simple."
He might not be considered the world's best just yet but it's popular opinion that the Premier League's main man is the 2014/15 PFA Player of the Year, given his electric form.
Perhaps surprisingly though, it's not actually something that Hazard is particularly interested in - he offers an interesting take on how people judge who's the top dog and has no issue showering other players with praise.
"But what for you is the best player?" the 2018 FIFPro World XI 1st team member articulated, answering my question with a question.
"Maybe for you it's people who score more goals, another one is not thinking about that. At the moment I'm good - if I'm the best, If I'm not I don't care.
"In the Premier League we have a lot of top players. [Sergio] Aguero is one of the best, [Kevin] De Bruyne is injured but he's one of the best, Mo Salah was the best last year, N'Golo [Kante] in the team is one of the best so we have a lot of good players."
Fair play to Hazard for being so modest because I wouldn't be if I had half of his ability. He's Chelsea's main man but is content with going about his work quietly.
He is a joy to watch though, slaloming past players like it's the easiest thing in the world and doing so recently by scoring THAT goal against Liverpool to win the Carabao Cup tie after coming on as a substitute at Anfield.
Multiple defenders left in his wake and then the emphatic finish past his compatriot Simon Mignolet five minutes from time.
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It's only right to quiz him on whether it is the best goal he's scored, as difficult a question as it is for someone who has notched so many worldies.
"It's [near the] top of the list for sure," Hazard stated.
"Against Arsenal was good, against Liverpool three years ago at Anfield was fantastic also so for me it's not easy to say, 'this one was better than the other'.
`'Like I did against Huddersfield, like I did against Arsenal at the beginning of the season - when you go on the pitch and you feel all of the players are a bit tired and you are fresh, you need to produce something.
"To be fair I prefer to be on the pitch than the bench but in the team it's not just one or two players, we have 25 players that can play every week so when I am on the pitch I try to score or change the game."
It was the perfect example of what Hazard brings to the table as a player, with his blend of strength and balance almost unrivalled for a guy of his stature.
I wondered if those aforementioned qualities are something he works on regularly but the traits are more natural than manufactured according to the man himself.
"I'm not working a lot on strength, it's in my blood so I'm lucky to have these facilities," he stressed.
But his knack of getting his body in the way of defenders is next level; he's been fouled more times than any other player in the Premier League since the start of the 2013/14 season.
Given that the best way to thwart him is normally to go all Sunday League on him, I mention about Wilfried Zaha recently complaining about the rough treatment he receives.
Hazard, now a long-time Premier League player, is used to it but it doesn't faze him too much.
"It's part of the game - if the defender kicks you and they try to win the ball, that's fair; that's football," he addressed.
"The problem is when they kick you and are not trying to kick the ball. I think I have got protection from the referees because I have played seven years in England so I am used to it and the referee can make the decision.
"I always try to stand up and do something good."
Some players do try and defend legally against Hazard and so conversation turns to his toughest opponents/
"He's more of a central defender but Kompany is at the top and one of the best in the world," Hazard says of his international teammate, who he tips to achieve big things in Belgium or Congo (where Kompany's heritage lies) when he's done playing.
"He got a lot of injuries but this guy is a top player.
"Virgil van Dijk since last year is one of the best in the world for sure. To play against him last Saturday, I can tell he is one of the best and he's still young also."
Before we finish our 10 minute natter in a studio next to Chelsea's press conference room, I have to ask about N'Golo Kante, who I later see driving his Mini Cooper and signing autographs for fans after training.
Everyone loves Kante and Hazard cannot speak any higher of the shy midfield dynamo, saying: "N'Golo is a fantastic guy. On the pitch he's always trying to do his best for the team.
"France won the World Cup because of N'Golo, two years ago we won the league because of N'Golo and Leicester won the league because of N'Golo.
"He's a fantastic player, he controls the midfield and off the pitch he's a fantastic guy also.
"This guy can talk, especially in French. We speak French together so it's easier for him to talk French than English but he's a normal guy and in the dressing room we have a lot of guys like this. It's why he's happy here."
One of the most relaxed, easy-going interviews I've ever had the pleasure of doing is wrapped up with Hazard's thoughts on Chelsea's ambitions for the season.
"Stay in the top four, win the league of course but we know it's going to be difficult because three or four teams can win," he declared.
"Be back in the Champions League next year and try to win a cup or Europa League. It's going to be good."
Eden Hazard, Willian and Jorginho were appearing as part of William Hill's continued, proud partnership with Chelsea. The Blues can be backed to win the Premier League at 9/1.
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