London (AFP) – Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola believes Eden Hazard hasn’t yet reached his true potential, but can do under the tutelage of Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.
Now in his seventh season in England, Hazard has shone in winning two Premier League titles and was named the second best player at the World Cup after captaining Belgium to the semi-finals.
But after netting five times in six appearances this season, Sarri has challenged Hazard to continue that improved scoring rate by playing closer to the opposition’s goal.
“I don’t think, in my opinion, he’s reached his full potential,” said Zola, ahead of Wednesday’s League Cup visit to Liverpool.
“I believe he can use his skills in a better way. I truly believe in this.
“I think this year, the team, Maurizio in particular, will help him to reach his full potential.”
Zola is a Chelsea legend having scored 80 goals himself for the Blues in eight years at the Bridge and believes he would thrive in the role being asked of Hazard.
“The closer we keep him to the goal, the more balls we can get him to receive the ball around the box, the more effective he can be.
“So far we play the majority of the games so far in the opposition’s half.
“You get a lot of touches of the ball, especially our strikers, in the last 20 metres, which is where a striker with my qualities would have enjoyed it very much.”
In contrast to Zola, Sarri enjoyed just an amateur career as a player, but has had a far more success as a coach than the Italian international, who endured difficult management spells at West Ham, Watford and Birmingham.
But he is relishing his new role as Sarri’s assistant.
“For me, it’s a new world. Maurizio opened a big world in front of me,” added Zola. “I thought I knew a lot about football. I was wrong. It’s been great as an experience.”
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