Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Eden Hazard can become as good as Ballon d'Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese coach has been impressed with Hazard since returning to Stamford Bridge in the summer, and admits the Belgium international has exceeded his expectations in recent months.
“Eden was much easier than I thought," Mourinho told reporters. "If it was easier than I thought, it’s his responsibility, not mine. What I did was normal. The way he reacted was not normal. It was fantastic.”
Hazard has become a far more consistent performer since Mourinho's arrival from Real Madrid.
The former Lille star has already scored 11 goals in 30 matches this season, compared to the 13 goals in 62 games he netted last term.
And Mourinho feels that Hazard stands a realistic chance of reaching the extraordinary levels set by Messi and Ronaldo if he continues improving at the same rate.
When asked the question, Mourinho responded: “Now, I say yes. Now, I say yes, because his evolution is great.”
The Chelsea boss added: “If he [Hazard] wants the Ballon d’Or, he must build the entourage politically for that.
“It’s a different story if he wants to be a great, great player and arrive where Cristiano and Messi arrive. He has the space to go – he’s 23, and Cristiano is 28 or 29, Messi 26 or 27. Still young players, but four or five years older than Eden. So he has space for evolution. I think there’s a great ambition for him.”
Indeed, earlier this week, Hazard revealed that the possibility of becoming one of the world's best players has spurred him on.
"Now I realise that I can compete with Messi and Ronaldo in the near future, if I put in some more effort," the 23-year-old commented. "I don't know if I will ever reach their level. It'll be hard, they have incredible stats, but I accept the challenge."