Football

Chelsea manager: Hazard can reach Messi's level

Antonio Conte says he can turn Chelsea's top players into Ballon d'Or contenders if they buy into his work ethic.

Conte is determined to restore Eden Hazard to the kind of form which carried Chelsea to the English Premier League title in 2015 and earned the Belgium international both big Player-of-the-Year awards.

And Conte's message to Hazard and his teammates is clear: "Follow me and I can take you to Lionel Messi's level."

"Chelsea have players who can become top, top, top players," said Conte, quoted in several Sunday newspapers.

"These players can still improve a lot with work.

"We have fantastic players, who have great talent but, at this moment, the world doesn't think they are the same level as Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or Paul Pogba.

"But, in our squad, there are players who, with work, can improve a lot and reach this level. I'm sure about this. It's important the players understand this... And to prove and to show that now I am a top player, but I want to become a top, top, top player and I want to stay there.

"This is important. The mentality is important. The heart is important, patience and the will to improve are very important and, in this case, it's important for the manager to try to improve his best players."

Hazard did not score a league goal last season until April 23, his slump in form the most dramatic individual expression of a decline which saw Chelsea finish 10th - 31 points behind Leicester - and cost Jose Mourinho his job.

"Last season was bad for all the players," said Conte.

"Chelsea's habit is to win the title or fight till the end for the title... So, it's incredible that Chelsea finished 10th in the table.

"When you have great players with great talent like Hazard in the team, the expectations are very high.

"Also, when the season before you have won the title and Hazard was named the Best Player in the league.

"It's important for us to recover Hazard in the best condition: technique, tactical, physical, overall and with the good mentality."

- PA Sport.

eplchelseaAntonio Conteenglish premier leagueeden hazardLionel messi