Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has set his sights on becoming as good as Lionel Messi and Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, labelling the La Liga duo the “best on the planet”.
Hazard has been in scintillating form for the Blues this season, and was instrumental in inflicting the first home defeat for Manchester City in the Premier League this season last Monday. The 23-year-old, who moved to Stamford Bridge from French side Lille in the 2012 summer transfer window, has flourished since Jose Mourinho returned to the club and is determined to keep on improving.
“These players are the best on the planet,” Hazard told BBC’s Football Focus when recognising Messi and Ronaldo.
“They score one, two, three goals every game. It's something you've got to aim for - to get to their level.”
Hazard has been on a strong goal run himself of late, scoring 11 goals in 34 appearances this season as he has become a key figure in Mourinho’s plans. Despite the Portuguese insisting that they are not after the Premier League title this year, the combination of Hazard, Willian and Oscar has seen Chelsea rise to a strong position from which to challenge for success over the final few months of the season.
With both Messi and Ronaldo much older than Hazard – Messi is currently 26 while Ronaldo celebrated his 29th birthday on Wednesday – Hazard still has time on his side to develop into one of the world’s best.
The two have won the last six World Player of the Year award’s although Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery came close to disrupting that run this year, and Hazard feels with hard work and dedication he can soon be on the same level.
“They are obviously top, top level players,” Hazard praised.
“To get to their level, it's a case of working hard every day in training, enjoying myself and expressing myself as much as I can on the football field.”
Hazard did claim that he would consider himself to be among the best around, but doesn’t want to stop there as he focuses on improving his game. Hazard’s first task, he says, is getting rid of the “young player” tag he currently has, admitting that when he does he will have “crossed that barrier” that all top players must do.
“I'd probably say I'm up there with some of the best, but we've got to realise there are lots and lots of good players in the world,” he claimed.
“What I would like to do is shed the adjective 'young' because that would mean I've crossed that barrier and gone one step further in my career.”
One exception could be Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, who secured not only the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award last season, but also the PFA Young Player of the Year, before going on to secure a word-record £86m transfer to the Spanish club.