TV pundit Paul Merson doesn’t believe Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri should be criticising Eden Hazard.
The Blues boss has spoken about the Belgian’s lack of leadership qualities, although he was very keen to add that it wasn’t an important attribute for the playmaker to have.
Merson, however, feels that Hazard is the very definition of a “luxury player” and that Sarri should allow him to have a free role in the side without requiring him to do a job defensively:
“Sarri isn’t the first manager to criticise him but they are all getting it badly wrong with Hazard. You’re not going to get him tracking back or tackling people. Let him do what he wants.”
“Let him be a free spirit who can run the game, play the killer pass or score a goal out of nothing. He needs a free role and an arm round his shoulder, not a load of criticism.”
“You need to make sure he’s happy and let him play his game. He’s a luxury player but what a luxury it is to have him. He’s the kind of player you build a team around, not try to change.”
Reports in Spain have suggested that the Chelsea pair have a difficult relationship and Hazard’s much-publicised statements after the win against Tottenham on Sunday have been used as proof by some that there is friction between the player and manager.
Assistant coach Gianfranco Zola has been quick to play down any tension, stating at his pre-match presse conference on Friday that Sarri is just trying to encourage Hazard to improve his all-round game:
“I am sure that we will find a compromise. I am not in a position to criticise a player like Eden. We believe, Maurizio said one thing, that the potential of Hazard is greater than the performances.”
“So he is not criticising what Eden is doing but he believes he can do much more for himself and the team. That’s all he is saying.”