Simply put, Gianfranco Zola is a footballing genius.
The Italian midfielder was renowned for his mazy runs, mercurial dribbling and uncanny ability to unlock defences. Therefore, it’s fair to say he’s more than qualified to make judgments and provide opinions on the beautiful game.
Furthermore, for Premier League fans, Zola has a rather exciting prediction. In fact, he thinks one player in particular is set for such success that he could even emulate Lionel Messi.
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The man in question? Eden Hazard.
The Chelsea man has been flitting in and out of form in recent seasons, yet his potential and talent has never faded. Even amid the rut of last season, Hazard could still produce that spark of brilliance under pressure.
Zola seems to be a man who sympathises with such an opinion and is quite the fan of whom many see as his successor.
According to the Mirror, when asked whether Hazard could reach Messi’s levels, Zola stated: "The potential is there. He has to be a little more consistent.
"Last year wasn't so great for him and it has affected his considerations. "But I think a good step back can make you better. You learn that you need to train harder, because if you want to be as good as Messi or Ronaldo you have to work very hard.
“They were born with that [talent] and became who they are because they worked really hard.
"I think Eden has gone through a difficult year and I believe it matured him and he's ready to go even higher."
The 50-year-old has hit the nail on the head. Hazard certainly has the talent comparable to such big names as Messi, but you don’t see Ballon d’Or winners having such disastrous campaigns as the Belgian endured last year.
Nevertheless, this season has indicated that the ex-Lille man could be set for a return to brilliance. Chelsea find themselves atop the Premier League and their tricky winger has been at the heart of it all.
Antonio Conte’s new 3-4-3 system has liberated Hazard and he’s thriving off such a lack of defensive duties. What is for certain though, is that the 25-year-old must put last season behind him. Besides, a campaign which took him until April to find the net in the league is far from a career highlight.
If Hazard can conquer the big games and keep up his electrify form over the proceeding seasons, there’s no reason to suggest he won’t be considered for the Ballon d’Or.
Both Ronaldo and Messi are creeping into their thirties, so the door for their successor has been opened. Furthermore, if Zola is to be believed, Hazard will be just that, if he can find some consistency that is.
Do you think Eden Hazard will ever win the Ballon d'Or? Leave them in the comment section below!