Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink says that Eden Hazard must show greater consistency if he ever wants to reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hazard has been a shadow of the player who inspired Chelsea to the Premier League title last season and claimed the PFA Player of the Year award, but has shown flashes of his best since returning from a persistent hip injury, scoring three goals in two matches against Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur.
Coming on as a half-time substitute at Stamford Bridge on Monday, Hazard curled the ball spectacularly into the top corner in the 83rd minute to complete a stirring Chelsea comeback and end Spurs’ faltering title challenge, confirming Leicester City as this season’s Premier League champions.
Hiddink says that Hazard is enjoying his football again after a frustrating season, but warns that the 25-year-old has much work left to do if he is to get back to the elite level under new first-team head coach Antonio Conte next season.
“If you want the recognition of the Ballon d’Or, then you need more consistency in performances,” Hiddink said of Hazard. “You go to the players who are performing under huge pressure in La Liga but they enjoy it, like Ronaldo, Messi, Iniesta and others. They have consistency in their performances. It’s a longer way for him to knock on that door.
“We must not forget that he had a frustrating time being injured, coming back, playing, getting a setback in injury. He was not fully fit and then you’re not fully fresh. In the recent period you could see he was enjoying training, moving freely without any hesitations.
“You could see it against Bournemouth, which wasn’t the most intense game, and then he enjoyed himself very much in the last game [against Tottenham]. He’s not the most ecstatic guy but he is training very well. He laughs and enjoys it very much. When he wasn’t fit you could see the face of frustration.”
Asked what Hazard must do to ensure he is back at his best next season, Hiddink replied:
“Having a good end of the season for us and then being very physically fit for the Euros to have a very good impact for Belgium. Then, after that, making a very good preseason. When this guy is physically fit then he can automatically play as nature has gifted him.
“In coaching we always think that we make this player, we discover that player. But they are gifted and if the conditions are well for him, in the environment or the physical parts, the big players love to play like amateurs.”