Eden Hazard is the second-best player in the world behind Lionel Messi, his Chelsea team-mate Antonio Rudiger has claimed.
Belgium forward Hazard has developed into one of the most exciting and talented players in the Premier League since joining Chelsea from Lille in 2012. The 27-year-old is closing in on a century of goals for Chelsea and has helped the club win two titles, the FA Cup and Europa League.
Despite impressing at Stamford Bridge, Hazard is yet to challenge Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or.
But Germany international Rudiger still rates Hazard as the second-best player in world football, before Barcelona and Argentina superstar Messi.
Asked specifically about France forward Kylian Mbappe, Rudiger said: ‘Mbappe is unbelievably fast, really good. ‘To stop him, you have to do it as a team, because alone … good luck!
‘But for me, the best in the world is Messi, then Hazard.’ Chelsea struggled last season, finishing fifth in the Premier League and failing to impress in Europe. At the end of the disappointing campaign, manager Antonio Conte was sacked and Chelsea look revitalised under new boss Maurizio Sarri.
The Blues have taken full points from their first four games of the new season and Rudiger admits the perfect start has come as a surprise.
‘To be honest, I’m surprised how well we’ve done because players like Hazard and N’Golo Kante had big World Cups and came back late for training,’ he said.
‘They are in good shape and that’s impressive.’ Rudiger also says he is relishing the opportunity to play under Sarri, admitting he prefers his tactics to that of former manager Conte.
‘I played for Roma in Italy, so I knew the way the manager liked to play and it was something I favoured,’ the defender added. ‘He wants us to press high, compared to last season when everyone knows we sat back.
‘Now it is different. We create a lot of chances and, for me, that’s very good. Mostly, he likes the defenders to play the ball short and keep possession.
‘I have shown so far I can do it but I want to improve every day. ‘He is a coach who is not happy, he is always saying you can do better, and that keeps you alive.’
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