Chelsea forward Eden Hazard has revealed he was forced to resort to taking painkillers after games in the Premier League last season because he was getting fouled so regularly.
The Belgian ace enjoyed his finest season in England to date last time round, bagging the PFA Player of the Year award after helping Chelsea claim the Premier League title.
The 24-year-old was the most fouled player in the league last season, winning his side on average three free-kicks every game.
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However Chelsea and manager Jose Mourinho have called for Hazard to receive more protection from referees because he is targeted by opposing teams so regularly - and now the forward has revealed the consequences of that approach.
The former Lille ace also picked out the worst perpetrators he faced last season, but he insisted he did his best not to react to the provocation by lashing out.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “If they [referees] can protect me, it would be good for me. Because they know now that I get a lot of kicks and I want to be protected by the referee.
“Sometimes I am in pain after games. I have to take some anti-inflammatories but I like to have the ball at my feet and when I have the ball at my feet, I get a lot of kicks. Whenever I feel pain, I try to keep a smile on my face. I have never reacted, it’s my character.
"Which was the worst one? Of course against Stoke, Bardsley. When I see the video, it’s crazy. I just play. I always say after the game if I’ve had a lot of kicks the game was good. I don’t care about kicks, I just want to score.”
Despite the increased attention Hazard managed 14 goals and nine assists in the Premier League last season - however he has his sights set on some of his more illustrious peers. “Of course, in the Champions League we have to do better to reach the final or the semi final,” he said. “If I want to reach this level [of Messi and Ronaldo] I have to score 40, 50 goals. I think last season I scored 20. Maybe it’s good but maybe it’s not enough.”