Eden Hazard wants to repay Maurizio Sarri for helping him find his goalscoring touch this season by helping his manager achieve his first major honour in professional football.
The 27-year-old’s strike in the 3-0 win away at Southampton was his eighth of the season and it has sent his side into second in the Premier League, just below Manchester City on goal difference.
It is clear that Sarri has helped Hazard reach a new level, allowing him to play with more freedom and in a team that dominates possession. However, Hazard admitted that he is still unsure about whether to renew his contract at Chelsea amid dreams of a Real Madrid move.
After opening up about his future, Hazard was keen to reassure fans that he will give his all to earn Sarri a trophy this season.
“I think he is a great manager,” Hazard said at St Mary’s Stadium. “When you play football, you want to play for these kinds of managers because the way he wants us to play is the way that I want to play. So I am just thinking about this season.
“I want to win something with him and then we will think about what happens at the end of the season but now, in my head, it is just play and enjoy football then try to win the games. I think every year it is the same. When teams play against Chelsea, they are a bit scared because we have great players.
“It is like when you play Liverpool or Man City. This is a big team. For them, it is hard. We need to be focused though because in the Premier League you can lose a game. We drew against West Ham. Today we won 3-0 in the end but we could have conceded a goal in the first half.
“So you need to be aware of this. That’s the manager. You know, the manager is always saying you need to be focused. No mistakes at the back. Then when we have a chance, we need to score and kill the game.”
Hazard’s form this season sees him top of the Premier League’s goalscoring charts, having scored the same amount of goals as team-mates Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Willian combined in all competitions.
Sarri has challenged Hazard to aim to score 40 goals, which the 27-year-old thinks might be a tough total to reach, with 19 strikes being his current best in west London.
“40 is hard, it is hard to reach 40,” Hazard added. “I think it is possible but it is not in my mind. At the moment, I am just shooting and scoring goals. I don’t think so [that I am shooting more] but when you score goals, you want to score even more goals.
“I try to shoot but I think at the end of the game I could have shot two or three times more, but chose to pass to Alvaro. I think I just try to do the right thing. When I can shoot, I shoot. When I can pass, I pass. That’s what I am trying to do.
“It’s true [that Sarri] wants me to defend and then to be ready when I get the ball. So we try to move the ball, then when my team-mates see me free, they try to find good passes and that’s what we are doing at the moment.”
Sarri has boosted Chelsea’s hopes in renewing their contract with Hazard by taking steps to give his club the best possible chance of convincing the Belgium international.
The club’s director Marina Granovskaia will be the one to negotiate on behalf of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, but it is clear that Sarri’s appointment has increased Hazard’s happiness at the club. Hazard says that Sarri wants him to enjoy, although he was careful not to criticise his former managers in the process.
“I had freedom with all of them on the pitch,” Hazard said of his former managers Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho. “No, that’s the truth. It is just that when you are winning games, it is easy to say that the manager is giving us freedom.
“If tomorrow we are losing games then the speech will be different. At the moment we are winning games so, of course, I can score goals and the manager is part of that, for sure. He is very good. He talks a lot with the players. He jokes a lot.
“When you see him, maybe you think he is a bit focused on the game but he can make some jokes. I think we need that. He is a funny guy but he likes to work. When it is time to enjoy, then he wants us to enjoy. When he is talking about football, the first thing he says is let’s make you enjoy. That’s good.”
Hazard is now set to captain the Belgium national team before coming back to London to prepare for a Premier League match against Manchester United.