Eden Hazard came off the bench to score for Chelsea in their win at Huddersfield. Photograph: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Maurizio Sarri believes Eden Hazard has the ability to establish himself as the best player in the world but has admitted he feared losing the Belgium forward in the three weeks after taking charge as Chelsea’s manager.
Hazard, who came off the bench to set up the final goal in the 3-0 opening weekend win at Huddersfield, is expected to start against Arsenal on Saturday as Sarri oversees his first competitive fixture at Stamford Bridge.
He was Chelsea’s top scorer last season and enjoyed an eye-catching World Cup, captaining Belgium to third place, only to suggest the time might be right “to discover something different”.
Those comments were made in St Petersburg in mid-July, a few days after Sarri’s appointment and before the 27-year-old player’s departure on holiday, and it was more than three weeks before the manager met Hazard at Chelsea’s training base in Cobham.
“I was concerned about this problem,” said Sarri, aware that the transfer window extends until the end of the month in Spain, where Real Madrid have long coveted Hazard.
“But the first time I spoke to him, I was sure he would stay. So I was concerned for 20 days, no more. Hazard, technically, is really one of the best in Europe in this moment. He has to work from the physical point of view, of course.