LONDON – Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said Eden Hazard was arguably the best player in Europe after his hat trick engineered the 4-1 win over Cardiff City that put the Blues top of the Premier League.
The Belgian struck in the 37th and 44th minutes to overturn Cardiff’s early lead, and added his third from the penalty spot on 80 minutes to take his goal tally to five in three games as Chelsea notched a fifth successive victory.
Cardiff simply had no answer to the threat he posed throughout, and afterwards, Sarri was quick to salute his 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 to the BBC after earlier telling Sky that Hazard might take two years to reach that mark.
“I think he can score 30 or 35 goals this season,” said Sarri.
Within a couple of minutes, that estimate had grown. “Eden only arrived back two days ago (from international duty). Yesterday I told him for me, he can score 40 goals.”
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock admitted 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.
Hazard fired his first into the bottom corner after dancing round two defenders, then latched on to another Olivier Giroud layoff for the second.
His penalty was an exercise in precision.
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 stays further forward and wastes less time in his own half.
“I think he can spend less energy than now,” he said. “I want him to play more in the last 25 metres.”