Eden Hazard is the equal of Lionel Messi and has such a deep desire to win that he cannot bear losing - even when it comes to something as trivial as playing poker.
That is according to Chelsea coach Christophe Lollichon, who was describing how Jose Mourinho's return to the Stamford Bridge club had transformed the young Belgium international and has provided the spark for him to become one of the world's best players.
Quoted in the The Sun, Lollichon was adamant that Hazard was similar to Messi in terms of the level of his ability and that there is no good reason for the 24-year-old to consider himself to be "inferior" to the Barcelona superstar.
“Eden is virtually the same as Messi. He has no reason to feel inferior to Lionel. He wants to win all the time, whether he is playing football or poker. He is terrifying to play against when he has the ball," said Lollichon.
"Eden has been a different player since Jose Mourinho returned to the club. He is more complete and has learned a lot about how much effort he has to put in."
He was being interviewed ahead of Chelsea's Champions League last 16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday evening, where much is being expected of hazard returning to the country where he first made his name.
Mourinho has already warned that this will be a different Chelsea side to the one that was beaten 3-1 at Parc des Princes at the quarter-final stage of last season's competition. The Blues eventually went through thanks to an injury time Demba Ba goal in the second leg, but the the first leg was a humiliating defeat.
"Samuel Eto’o used to tell him he has what it takes to win the Ballon d’Or"
Lollichon described how being on the same level as Messi was not where some felt Hazard's dominance would end, with the coach describing one former player at Stamford Bridge continually asserting the view that the attacker could scoop the world's premier individual award.
“Samuel Eto’o used to tell him he has what it takes to win the Ballon d’Or," he added.
Though it will have to be Cristiano Ronaldo whom Hazard must surpass in the short term if he wants to win the FIFA gong, as the Real Madrid goal machine won the prize for a second consecutive year at a ceremony in Zurich last month.
Has Hazard Got What it Takes?
It is difficult to disagree with Lollichon's assertion that Hazard is equally as talented as Messi, but there are very serious questions about his view that the Belgian has no reasons to feel inferior to his Argentine counterpart.
There are plenty of reasons for him to feel inferior, though these reasons that have nothing to do with his natural talent. Anyone who has watched Hazard closely will be well aware, unless they are blind or have no idea about football, that he is one of the most technically gifted players in the world.
Yes, he is one of the leading attacking players in the Premier League, but he does not exploit his abilities to a sufficient extent
The former Lille star has a low centre of gravity that, aligned with his supreme technique, makes his dribbling skills arguably the best in the Premier League. Then there is the searing acceleration he has to surge away from opponents and exploit space left by defences so devastatingly.
However, it is hard to shake the nagging feeling that he is just not fulfilling his vast potential as yet. Yes, he is one of the leading attacking players in the Premier League, but he does not exploit his abilities to a sufficient extent for him to be considered on a similar level to Messi.
All In the Mind
Decision-making is a key area where Hazard falls down; far too often he squanders the numerous promising positions to find a pass or shoot he is provided with by the raft of creative players around him in the Chelsea team.
At 24 years of age, time is still on his side, but he can only be considered one of the greats if he can match his superiority in terms of talent with mental superiority on the pitch. It is in the mind where the best players make the difference and Hazard is still in the chasing pack.
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