Eden Hazard names Pablo Zabaleta as toughest opponent

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Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has named Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta as the toughest opponent he has faced in his career.

In an in-depth interview with the Independent, the Belgium international was asked who his most difficult opponent is - and after talking about the Chelsea teammates he faces in training, the 24-year-old moved on to the Argentina international.

“It’s always a tense game with lots of conflict and he is always right behind me,” Hazard stated, “it keeps you up right on your toes.”

Hazard relishes big occasions

Chelsea’s No. 10 has enjoyed some fascinating battles against the Manchester City defender since arriving in the Premier League in the summer of 2012 - and has often had the upper-hand.

Hazard relishes the big occasions; his performance in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over City at the Etihad Stadium last season was particularly special.

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The Belgian, who delighted the Blues’ faithful by signing a new five-year contract earlier this month, is already world class but continues to improve with each passing season - and there’s a growing feeling that the former Lille star could win the Ballon d’Or in the future.

Hazard: I'm one stage behind Messi and Ronaldo

Hazard insists that winning world football’s most prestigious individual accolade is not his biggest goal - although he admits it would be nice - while he also accepts that he is not at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo just yet.

Asked how far he is behind the multiple Ballon d’Or winners, Hazard initially responded by saying “two or three stages” - but he went on to revise his initial statement.

“Well, maybe just one,” he added. “It sounds better to say two or three! It is not the primary objective but it would be great.”

Hazard *is* a potential Ballon d'Or winner

While Hazard may fall marginally short of the extraordinary levels set by Messi and Ronaldo over the past six years, there’s no reason why he can’t end his career with at least one Ballon d’Or.

Arguably the third best player in the world at present, all Hazard needs to do is add more goals to his game - a new target set for him by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

“Jose Mourinho would like for me to score more,' Hazard told French TV station Telefoot, according to the Daily Mail, earlier this month. “Us forwards need to score and to pass. But I think I compensate for that given how many chances I create.

“I’m fouled a lot, there are a lot of free-kicks and penalties that I win. But he'd like me to score more, like those great players (Messi and Ronaldo) who score two or three times each game.”

Hazard could leave Chelsea eventually

Hazard scored 17 goals in all competitions and has 14 so far this term. Ronaldo and Messi, meanwhile, have scored 38 and 37 goals respectively over the course of the 2014-15 campaign.

Still, Hazard has the potential to become a 25+ goal-a-season man - and when that happens, Chelsea may face a difficult job holding on to him.

Will Hazard leave Chelsea for one of the Spanish giants in the future? Will he win a Ballon d’Or? Have your say in the comments below!

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Manchester City
Premier League
Eden Hazard
Pablo Zabaleta

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