Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri believes Eden Hazard has all the tools to become the best player in the world as he admitted he initially feared losing the Belgium superstar to Real Madrid in the early stages of his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard, 27, has increasingly been linked with a move away from the Blues with each passing summer and he himself added fuel to the fire by suggesting it could be time 'to discover something different' in the wake of Belgium's third place finish at the World Cup.
The words uttered by Hazard sent a feeling of uneasiness to wash over Sarri as his appointment had only been officially confirmed by Chelsea a handful of days prior, and it was only three weeks after those remarks that the pair were able to meet at the club's training base for the first time.
“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.
Hazard deserves the captain’s armband more than anyone in this current Chelsea squad. He’s the best player in the word, has played through some god awful systems, showed his desire & leadership at the wc and shows up in every match. Couldn’t ask for anything more. pic.twitter.com/qLpiJVNnnV— Hamada (@Habile498) August 17, 2018
“I have spoken to him very often in the last ten days but he has never said to me anything about [leaving]."
While concerns lingered, Sarri remained quietly confident of keeping hold of Hazard as he was sure Chelsea would not even entertain the prospect of selling one of their best players - and someone he believes can challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or.
He continued: "So I am sure Eden will be with us for this season. Why am I sure? Because Chelsea are one of the most important clubs in Europe.
"I think one of the most important clubs in Europe cannot sell an important player without the possibility of buying a player on the same level.
“It depends on his position on the pitch. In the last five years, Cristiano [Ronaldo] has played like a striker. [Lionel] Messi like a striker, Eden sometimes like a winger. Eden can improve. We are talking about one of the most important players in Europe now but, in my opinion, he can improve more.
"He can be the first. It depends on him. The best for technical skill, the best for scoring, but I think it depends only on him. On his mind."
The report claims Chelsea will dismiss any further contact from Real, and while Hazard has yet to make steps towards extending his stay at Stamford Bridge the playmaker remains a key candidate for the captain's armband this season.