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Chelsea's Eden Hazard a 'genius' but must give more to become world's best - Sarri

Chelsea's Eden Hazard a 'genius' but must give more to become world's best - Sarri

ESPN

LONDON -- Eden Hazard must work harder in training if he wants to be the world's best player, according to head coach Maurizio Sarri who believes Chelsea have only seen "75 or 80 percent" of the forward's potential so far.

Hazard has made a blistering start to the season by scoring seven goals in his first eight Chelsea appearances in all competitions, including a spectacular solo strike to eliminate Liverpool from the Carabao Cup in Wednesday's third-round tie at Anfield. Such displays have led many to suggest that the Belgium international is ascending to the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I think that he is for sure one of the best [in the world]," Sarri said. "But I am absolutely convinced that he can improve.

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"If he's able to improve during the training, maybe he will be able to use himself at 100 percent because, I think that we have seen only 70, 80, 85 percent of his potential. I think that if he is able to improve, he will be the best in the world."

Sarri added, when asked how Hazard can improve: "For example, with more intensity in training. I think [if he does that, he could be voted the best in the world]. It's very difficult to compare him with other players. He is a genius, I think. It's very difficult. He's unique."

The Italian coach was at pains to stress that he is not questioning Hazard's level of commitment to training, but added: "[I want] more continuity. From the physical point of view, from the mental point of view, because I think he has the opportunity to improve more. He can become the best player in the world.

"He's a genius. Technically, I think, he is the best. And so I want him to be the best in the world. It's a very interesting challenge [for me], I think. He has a lot to give. A lot to give to himself, to the team, to the staff. And I want everything."

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Hazard's dazzling form has further strengthened his hand in any future contract talks with Chelsea, who are desperate to tie him down to a long-term extension.

The Belgian told Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday that there is "no news" regarding contract discussions. Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea are prepared to make him the highest-paid player in the club's history as part of any extension, but Real Madrid remain long-term admirers.

Hazard did offer Chelsea encouragement in their hopes of keeping him around for the long term, however, by delivering an emphatic endorsement of Sarri as well as summer arrivals Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, who have completely transformed the team's style of play.

"You can see it on the field -- we've got new players, people who love possession of the ball," he said. "We have more possession than in the past and the forwards are benefitting from this new philosophy.

"More possession means more chances to create openings or to dribble your opponent and get shots in on goal. Sarri is a coach who loves managing possession and this is the difference, and then he's Italian so with him, like with [Antonio] Conte, training is always tough and demanding.

"[But] Sarri knows how to get the best out of us, clearly. I don't want to be disrespectful to Roberto Martinez, but when his time as Belgium coach is over, Belgium could consider Sarri to replace him. I think his results are excellent."

The visit of Liverpool to Stamford Bridge on Saturday will provide more clarity on the seriousness of Chelsea's title aspirations. Sarri has consistently played down his team's chances of lifting the Premier League trophy this season, but he is far more confident that Jurgen Klopp's men possess the requisite quality.

"He is one of the best coaches in the world at the moment," Sarri said of Klopp. "[Liverpool] have worked very well in the last season with these players. Now I think they are ready to win. Maybe the Premier League, maybe the Champions League. But ready to win something important."

Antonio Rudiger (muscle problem) and Pedro Rodriguez (shoulder) are Sarri's main injury concerns ahead of the Liverpool game. Both men participated in the second training session on Thursday afternoon, but Chelsea will leave a final decision on their fitness until closer to kick-off.

ESPN