Maurizio Sarri believes Eden Hazard can be the best player in the world

  •  PA Sport

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri says Eden Hazard can be the best player in Europe – if he wants to be.

Hazard has often sparkled in six years at Chelsea, bringing comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Belgium playmaker could make his first start of the season in Saturday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal and will be expected to do well after a strong showing at the World Cup.

Sarri said: “We are talking about one of the most important players in Europe now but, in my opinion, he can improve more. He can be the first.

“It depends on him. The best for technical skill, the best for scoring, but I think it depends only on him. On his mind.”

The 27-year-old is beginning his seventh season at Chelsea and has twice won the Premier League title. He hinted after helping Belgium finish third at Russia 2018 that he was ready for a new challenge.

Rumours of a switch to Real Madrid have been persistent and have grown as Hazard has two years remaining on his current contract and has been deliberating over the offer of an extension for some time.

The Spanish transfer window remains open until August 31, but Sarri has no doubts Hazard will be with Chelsea for the rest of the season, despite the absence of Champions League football after the Blues’ fifth-placed finish in last season’s Premier League.

“Of course, I was concerned about this problem,” Sarri added.

“The first time I have spoken to him, I was sure that he would stay. So I was concerned for 20 days, no more.

“I have spoken with him very often in the last 10 days. He has never said to me anything about this. I am sure Eden will be with us for this season.”

Asked to explain his certainty, the 59-year-old Italian said: “Because Chelsea are one of the most important clubs in Europe. I think one of the most important clubs in Europe cannot sell an important player without the possibility of buying a player on the same level.”

The Blues boss also expressed optimism Alvaro Morata can return to form.

Morata scored eight goals in eight competitive appearances at the start of last season, but he has one Premier League goal in 15 appearances in 2018.

“I am not worried about Morata. Morata is a very good player,” Sarri added.

“I think in this moment he needs only to gain confidence.

“He needs to score. As all strikers in the world, I think.”

Saturday will be Sarri and Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s first London derby.

It was put to Sarri that former Paris St Germain boss Emery’s side struggled against champions Manchester City last Sunday.

“For everybody it’s difficult against Manchester City,” Sarri said.

Sarri believes the Gunners and the Blues will be in direct competition for a top-four place this season.

He also reckons Emery can do well as the successor to the Gunners’ boss of almost 22 years, Arsene Wenger.

“This coach has the ability to start a new era,” Sarri said.

“He won three times the Europa League, and won in France, so we’re talking about a very good coach.”

Cesc Fabregas is missing against his former club, due to a minor knee injury, but fellow midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who is on loan from Real Madrid, could make his debut.

News Now - Sport News