Like a child with a new toy, Eden Hazard is premiering a fresh pair of boots when he sits down with MARCA to talk all things Chelsea, Belgium, and Zinedine Zidane.
It’s understandable that the winger is urgent to pull on his Nike Mercurial Vapor XIs. Speaking before his comeback from a fractured ankle, Hazard is ready to get back to his best.
After the injury, when will we see the best Eden Hazard playing for Chelsea?
“Soon, I hope. I’m already in good condition. I’ll be back soon, but not in a hurry.”
You’re now 26 and you’ve also got some new boots, the Nike Mercurial Vapor XI. What aspects of your game do you think you can still improve on?
“I can improve on all aspects. Even the best players in the world need to improve because football is constantly evolving. I could score more goals, create more assists, hassle opposition players more… and better understand the game.”
Chelsea have lost Terry and Matic but brought in Morata, Bakayoko, Rudiger… [Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta signed after the interview]. Is the squad stronger now?
“I don’t know. We’ll see at the end of the season. We won the league last year, so if we repeat that this year then we can say tat the team is stronger. We have lost some important players, but that’s compensated with the new arrivals. We will see, adapting to the new squad and trying to win games.”
In defending the title, who are Chelsea’s biggest rivals?
“There is not just one team, in the Premier League there are at least six or seven who can win the title. Every week you have to be ready for the fight, because every week, if you aren’t ready, you could lose. We will see at the end of the season who is best.”
What makes Antonio Conte such a special coach?
“Everyone knows him, he’s a good coach and we won the title last season. He has experience and is very focused on each game. He likes to work hard and that’s the key to success.”
Courtois says he wants to go as far as possible in Europe. Is the Champions League a top priority for Chelsea?
“I want to win everything, but yes, the Champions League is special because I’ve never won it. I got to the semi-finals four years ago and now I want to play in the final, and win it. Why not.”
Chelsea have won the league twice in three years and Real Madrid have won the Champions League three times in four years, are they the team to beat in Europe?
“Well, I think at this moment Real Madrid are the best team in the world. They have won everything and have good players and a great coach. Now, the Champions League is very hard to win. As in the Premier League, anyone can win it. You never know.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the Ballon d’Or since 2008, do you think you can succeed them in the future?
Could you analyse the impact of the Spaniards at Chelsea, such as your great friend Azpilicueta?
“Yes, he is one of my best friends. Now he’s the new captain next to Gary Cahill, and he has a lot of experience. Azpilicueta always gives everything on the pitch, both in games and in training. He’s a pleasure to play with and to also be his friend.”
What about Fabregas, one of the ‘brains’ of Chelsea?
“Cesc is the master. I call him The Master because he does what he wants. He can put the ball behind the defensive line, he can score big goals. He understands football very well.”
How do you see Morata faring?
“I’ve never played with him but I’m looking forward to it. He is still very young, but he has won many titles with Juventus and Madrid, so he has a lot of experience. We need this type of player, one who can score many goals, and Alvaro can do that. We are happy with him, he is a good person, he’s talkative, even in English. We are looking forward to playing together.”
Finally, Diego Costa, the top scorer last season.
“Diego and I have been playing together for three years, we have won everything together except for the Champions League. It’s a pleasure to play with him, he’s a top player and a top person. I would like to see him come back, but I don’t make the decisions. I hope he can find a solution so that we can see him back on the pitch soon.”
Everybody talks about the Golden Generation at Belgium, are you ready to fight for the World Cup?
“Yes. We were ready a year ago to fight for the European Championship. Now comes the World Cup and we are ready. We have a good team and a good coach. If we want to win something we must improve and work together… But, why not? We will be able to win it.”
You have a contract and are comfortable at Chelsea, but would you like to play in LaLiga one day?
“At the moment I’m good in England. I play for one of the best teams, but yes, LaLiga is special. Why not? Of course for the moment, I’ll stay here.”
You took the No. 10 because of Zidane’s beginnings at Bordeaux, what did you admire about Zidane as a player and as a coach?
“He has won everything both as a player and as a coach. He’s a special type. Everyone knows about him as a player, when we think of football we think of Zidane because he could do anything on the pitch. Even now, off the pitch, he has achieved great things. He’s magical and I’m very happy to see him on the touchline.”
You know Ligue 1 well, will Neymar get bored?
“It’s not an easy league. Every defender is looking for you and waiting for you. But Neymar is a special player, he can do anything with the ball and is on a good team. He’ll do very well.”