Jose Mourinho has tipped Eden Hazard to become the world’s top player after the Chelsea forward signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract on Thursday.
The Belgium international joined Chelsea from Lille in June 2012 and has since made a total 147 appearances for the Blues, scoring 43 goals.
He won the PFA Young Player of the Year and Chelsea’s Player of the Year awards at the end of last season, having finished with 17 goals in all competitions.
Chelsea manager Mourinho had criticized Hazard in May last year, claiming “he is not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team”.
The 24-year-old appears, however, to have earned the trust of his manager, having started every one of Chelsea’s league matches in the current campaign.
“I am very happy that Eden has signed a new contract,” Mourinho said. “It shows he believes in the club’s coaching staff and players to help him become the best player in the world.
“He is already a top player and his evolution has been fantastic. He is still very young and he can become the best.”
Hazard won the Europa League in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge and also helped Belgium reach the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil last summer.
After scoring 13 goals in 36 appearances for the Barclays Premier League leaders so far this season, Hazard told the club’s official website: “I am very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea.
“Since I came here in 2012 I have always felt good and the club has been very supportive to me. The manager has helped me improve a lot, the fans have been fantastic and I have an amazing understanding with my team-mates.
“I always try to give pleasure to the supporters with my style of play and it is nice to know they appreciate my work.
“I hope we can repay that support by winning lots of trophies, beginning with the Capital One Cup at Wembley, and after that, we can push hard towards the end of the season.”
Hazard recognizes Mourinho has to be tough with his players if they under-perform, and insists he can take any criticism.
“Even in the bad moments he has been with me, we can speak honestly with each other,” Hazard added.
“If I have played well he tells me, but if I haven’t played so well he also lets me know. I like the kind of relationship we have. He gives me the freedom to play and I just try to do my best.”
Hazard’s target is an explosive finish to the campaign with Chelsea, saying: “I hope I can reach maybe 20 or 25 goals before the end of the season, that would be very good for me and the team.”
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