Hazard can score 40 a season: Sarri

LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri labelled Eden Hazard as arguably the best player in Europe after the Belgian's hat-trick engineered Saturday's 4-1 win over Cardiff that put the Blues top of the English Premier League.

But the Italian insisted that other teams were better than his side, who have much to improve despite winning five on the trot.

Hazard struck in the 37th and 44th minutes to overturn Cardiff's lead, courtesy of Sol Bamba's goal, and added his third from the penalty spot in the 80th minute to take his goal tally to five in three games. Cardiff simply had no answer to Hazard's threat throughout the match and Sarri was quick to salute his player's performance.

"Eden Hazard is unique. I thought he was one of the best in Europe. But now I am changing my mind as maybe now he is the best in Europe," he said.

"I think he can score 30 or 35 goals this season. Within a couple of minutes, that estimate had grown. Yesterday I told him for me he can score 40 goals."

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock admitted that Hazard was "unplayable", an assessment few would argue with on his current form, which has not dipped despite his reported desire to join Real Madrid in the summer.

It was his second hat-trick for Chelsea, coming four years after he scored all the goals in their 3-0 win over Newcastle.

Worryingly for the rest of the Premier League, Sarri believes Hazard can get even better if he wastes less time in his own half.

"I think he can spend less energy than now," said Sarri, who is the fourth Premier League coach alongside Carlo Ancelotti, Craig Shakespeare and Pep Guardiola to win their first five games in their debut season. "I want him to play more in the last 25 metres."

However, the former Napoli coach is also looking for better things from his squad.

"At the moment, Liverpool and Manchester City are better than us," he said.

"I cannot change my mind after one match... We are not so solid as I want in the defensive phase."

Substitute Willian rounded off a satisfying afternoon for the London side with a fine strike from outside the area in the 83rd minute.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2018, with the headline 'Hazard can score 40 a season: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe