Chelsea star Eden Hazard has spoken in glowing terms about his former teammate Frank Lampard, whose 20-year career in English football came to an end on Sunday.
Hazard, who was named as the PFA’s Premier League’s Player of the Year last month, has revealed in an exclusive interview with the London Evening Standard that Lampard made a positive impression on him during his very first training session as a Chelsea player.
Despite all that he had achieved in football, Lampard still took the time to offer Hazard - the 21-year-old new boy - a drink of water. And although it was only a small gesture, Hazard describes it as an “incredible” moment.
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“You can’t help but learn from having players like Frank around you when you’re training and playing alongside him every day,” he explained. “I remember my very first training session with the club and we had a break and Frank said: ‘Can I get you some water, do you want a drink?’ It was incredible.
“As the new guy I felt like I should have been the one to be getting Frank, who has won so many trophies, water. But that is what he was like.
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“Having the chance to spend two seasons alongside him, you just learn what an exemplary player and professional he is. You got the feeling that this was a player respected by everybody and everywhere — not just in the club but outside too.”
Hazard wants to conduct himself like Lampard
Hazard already conducts himself in a professional manner both on and off the pitch, and the Belgium international admits he wants everybody in football - not just the Chelsea supporters - to have a good opinion of him.
“I’m not the type of player to look for photo opportunities and things like that. It’s very important to keep your life private and that’s what I have always tried to do,” he continued. “I don’t like going out, I feel happier at home. It’s a life choice. Obviously I go out occasionally for a meal with my friends, but if you have everything you want at home, why go looking elsewhere?
“If people focus on me more now after what has happened this season, I will just stay at home even more and there will be even less to say about me.
“I want everyone to have a good image of me, not just the Chelsea fans, everyone throughout the football world. In a similar style to how Frank Lampard is viewed. He is respected by everyone, I want that and to have a good clean image.”
Hazard plans to prolong his career
Hazard, 24, also wants to replicate Lampard by prolonging his career well into his late 30s.
“I watched how hard Frank was working at training despite having won so much already (11 major trophies with Chelsea in all) and knew I had to do the same,” he added. “As a youngster you can’t help but be inspired by people like Frank. He sustained his career at the highest level till the age of 36 and that is not for any reason.
“He worked hard at his game physically and technically. I don’t know if I will get to play until that age, I certainly want to. But I know I will have to work damn hard to do that.”
Hazard must become even more prolific
Hazard is already a hero in the eyes of the Chelsea supporters but has some way to go before he becomes a club legend, like Lampard.
He has every chance of doing just that, though, after signing a new five-and-a-half-year contract with the west London outfit back in February.
Considered by some to be the third best player at the world at present, Hazard needs to become a more prolific goalscorer in order to reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Belgian has scored a reasonable 49 goals in 163 appearances for Chelsea since arriving from Lille in 2012, but this is a player with the quality to score at least 20 goals - again, like Lampard used to - season-in, season-out.
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