LONDON: Jose Mourinho thinks that Eden Hazard is the finest young player in Europe, if not the world – and Chelsea’s manager said that before the unstoppable Belgian scored a hat-trick which swept the Blues to the top of the table with a 3-0 win over Newcastle.
After his man-of-the-match performance in Chelsea’s win at Manchester City last Monday, the 23-year-old took his season’s league tally to 12 goals – three more than in the whole of last season – and he has also provided six assists.
His performance illustrated why Chelsea now value him at three times the £32m they paid Lille two years ago.
It would have served as a master-class in Premier League attacking for Newcastle’s Luuk De Jong who saw little of the game on his his first start since arriving from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Hazard’s first two goals were pure class; the first an instant finish from Branislav Ivanovic’s pass, the second the conclusion of superb team play. His third goal came from a penalty and provided Hazard with his first hat-trick since his last game in France in 2012.
Mourinho said: “There has been a big evolution in his game. He is playing with consistency and ambition. But this performance was no different to the way he played against Hull, Manchester City, home to United, Southampton. The only difference is the three goals.”
In a TV interview in midweek, Hazard revealed an ambition to be mentioned, one day, in the same breath as Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He said: “There are lots of tough, young players out there. I think I’m up there with the best but I hope people will eventually take away the word ‘young’ because that would mean I’ve moved up another level.
“I have to work extremely hard to get to their level. Those players are on another planet because they score two or three goals every game. I hope to be like them one day.”
Mourinho continued to play down talk of Chelsea being title favourites but beaten manager Alan Pardew had no doubts. Pardew said: “I have come up against Chelsea under Mourinho many times. This team is as good as he’s had.”