Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has pleaded with referees to give more protection to Eden Hazard as he fears the continued poor treatment of his talented winger from match officials will result in him quitting the Premier League.
The Portuguese coach was speaking after the Blues' surprise 5-3 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on New Year's Day, another game that saw the Belgium international kicked from pillar to post by his opponents who capitalised on the opportunity to punish the fleet-footed forward without reprimand at White Hart Lane.
Mourinho claims that the increasing tendency to "kick and kick" the 23-year-old is not only detrimental to Chelsea's attacking prowess, but will also come back to bite the English top-flight as a whole, particularly if supporters are denied the chance to continue watching Hazard terrorising defences for many years to come.
"If people are in love with football in this country then they must be in love with Eden Hazard," he explained in his post-match interview, with quotes taken from The Guardian.
"But the way, match to match, he's being punished by opponents and not protected by referees … maybe one day we won't have Eden Hazard.
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"It's one, two, three, four, five, 10 aggressive fouls against him. They kick and kick and kick, and the kid resists. He's a very honest guy in the way he plays but that's another problem."
Mourinho mentioned one particular incident which occurred in the second half of Thursday's game as Spurs defender Federico Fazio brought Hazard down in the box to highlight his fair play attitude, after explaining that he was specifically told by the £185,000-a-week star that the challenge was in fact legitimate and that Chelsea did not deserve a penalty.
Not that referee Phil Dowd could've been too sure either way, given the fact he was almost 40 yards from the incident, and as a result was subjected to some criticism from the Chelsea tactician in a heated interview after the final whistle.
"There is an action on Eden Hazard which, honest as always, he tells me in his opinion was not a foul or a red card. So that is good, in spite the fact Mr Dowd was too slow to follow that ball. He was 40 yards away but made the right decision."
"In the 20 league matches we have played we have only had two penalties" - Jose Mourinho
However, by the time Mourinho had managed to cool off he spoke a little more sympathetically about the under-fire official when he sat down with the gathered media at his post-match press conference.
"It is difficult for him and difficult for everyone because [Cesc] Fabregas put the ball into space, Hazard attacked the space. But I knew that in case of doubt, and that situation was doubtful, it would go against us."
Overall it's been a frustrating Christmas period for the Blues who drew 1-1 with Southampton before the Tottenham match and are now level on points - and goal difference -with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, retaining top spot on the grounds of alphabetical order.
Frustrating festive period
Still, the "campaign against Chelsea" that Mourinho fabricated at St Mary's last Sunday after his side were denied a penalty is still clearly playing on the 51-year-old's mind as he couldn't prevent himself adding to the debate after Jan Vertonghen's handball in the area also went unpunished in the first half.
"In the 20 league matches we have played we have been the most offensive team, the team with more creative players in attacking areas, and we have had two penalties in those games."