LONDON (REUTERS) - Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard's spectacular decline in form after being crowned Footballer of the Year in England last season is partly down to a long-term hip injury, the club's interim manager Guus Hiddink said on Friday.
Hiddink's comments signalled some agreement with those of the Belgium international's father Thierry, who told newspaper Le Soir that his son's lacklustre performances were due to an inflammation in the hip that he had been carrying for three or four months.
Hazard senior told the Belgian newspaper: "Instead of giving Eden time to overcome the injury and have a proper rest, they pushed him to play because they have some important games."
Hiddink, speaking to reporters before Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Everton, agreed that Hazard had been carrying the injury for some time.
"I think his father has made a fair judgement," the 69-year-old Dutchman said. "He is not absent of injury. It's an injury with which you can play, but if you are not fully, fully fit that also has an influence on your freshness. The worries have been there, it's true."
Hazard was jeered off the pitch by a section of fans when Chelsea lost 2-1 to French champions Paris St Germain at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and were eliminated from the Champions League.
The fact he swapped his shirt with PSG's Argentine forward Angel Di Maria on the pitch at half-time also irked Chelsea's fans.
Hiddink accepted that players from more southerly countries often do that, but was more concerned with Hazard's future progress and fitness.
He continued: "He will be available for the weekend, he is desperate to be part of the performance.
"His father was very humble and made a very good comment about this.
"But I have my concerns. Should he play when he is not top, top fit, for an hour on full intensity? So we are trying to get him back to the level we expect of him."
Having scored 19 times in all competitions last season when he also was named the Player's Player of the Year, Hazard has scored twice in 38 appearances as Chelsea have struggled in the league following their title success last year.
His general form has also been poor and there is talk he may move to PSG in the summer, although his father said there was no truth in that.
"Eden has a contract until 2020. It's out of question that he'll leave the club at the moment," he said.