Hazard could teach Sterling a few lessons
Sulky Sterling can learn so much from humble Hazard
MAN CITY v CHELSEA
(Tonight, 11pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Imagine if the Eden Hazard "injury" and subsequent Chelsea doctor debacle had somehow happened to Raheem Sterling instead.
He would have been summarily executed in the court of public opinion.
If one believes Jose Mourinho's idiotic claim, Hazard wasn't really injured against Swansea last week. He was time-wasting.
The Belgian was, in essence, duping the referee with his gamesmanship.
But he's been spared any public criticism. The club doctor, Eva Carneiro, has been demoted and Mourinho faces widespread vilification.
But the twinkle-toed Hazard skipped off into the night, footloose and blame-free.
Had it been Sterling, they might be burning effigies outside the Etihad by now, calling him a cheat and savaging the City winger for being the very embodiment of all that is wrong with the modern game.
Hazard is the saint and Sterling the sinner, both at risk of being typecast.
Tonight, they meet at the Etihad Stadium, where the Englishman could be forgiven for glancing across at the Teflon terrier and wondering how nothing ever sticks.
Hazard is not quite the Messiah, but Sterling seems unable to shake the "very naughty boy" tag.
The blossoming wingers are separated by just four years. Their career paths are following a similar trajectory, with the same lofty ambitions.
But, in the case of Sterling, it's not so much the direction but the execution that's the problem.
Hazard is no less driven in his pursuit of excellence, but his desire has been tempered by a more subtle approach.
In 2012, he was just as committed to a lucrative move to a bigger club. On Twitter, Hazard said of Chelsea: "I'm signing for the Champions League winner."
But he wasn't harangued for putting ego before loyalty, after turning his back on Lille in favour of the Bridge for a fee of £32 million ($70m).
Instead, he was mostly applauded for his ambition, for taking that great leap forward in a bid to marry potential with silver pots.
What Hazard didn't do was sulk in cyberspace after taking wretched advice from a greedy entourage governed by self-interest.
What Hazard didn't do was initiate a PR disaster by organising a self-aggrandising interview with a TV network to remind the world of his talent and determination to play for a "bigger club" - while still playing for a smaller club.
Hazard did then what he continues to do now. He plays. He just plays, consistently, beautifully and enigmatically. The less he says, the more he reveals.
Last season, he rarely appeared in front of a camera. But he said so much more by scooping Player of the Year honours and a Premier League winners' medal.
When the playmaker collected the Football Writers' Association's award in mid-May, he had scored 20 goals in all competitions and started all 36 Premier League games at that point.
In stark contrast, the more Sterling spoke - and for a brief period he never stopped talking - the less sense he made.
He mixed up potential with end product. He confused hype with endorsement. He had fallen for his own headlines.
In some respects, Sterling was a victim of his own nationality.
English football often exists in a vacuum. It wallows in its self-importance.
One decent game is enough to fill a back page for days (see West Ham's Reece Oxford, who has had, quite literally, one decent game). One decent season, even if it was the previous season, is more than enough to be stamped "the great English hope", a potential Euro 2016 star and well worth a £49m punt.
In such overhyped and overindulged circumstances, Hazard must give private thanks for being Belgian.
Sterling should look across the pitch tonight for further instructions on how to navigate his fledgling career. Like Hazard, he can now pull back from the bombastic hype and just play.
If Sterling can shake off the shackles of his passport, which is a permanent pressure cooker for any budding English talent, and go back to that carefree kid who nutmegged fullbacks for fun, he can really thrive at City.
In January, Sterling called Hazard the best player in the Premier League and he obviously is. More pertinently, he's also one of the most popular.
He sidesteps controversy. Why shoot from the hip in an interview, when he can shoot on sight on any pitch?
Talk really is cheap when the boots are priceless. It's an invaluable lesson.
Sterling could be a lot less hazardous to himself by being more like Hazard.
"I think that he will be a very dangerous player. Maybe we were criticised for the amount we paid for him, but I am sure he will demonstrate during the year, especially against the big teams, why he was valued so much."
- Manuel Pellegrini backing Raheem Sterling to shine against Chelsea
"You’d almost hope that Eden Hazard would have diarrhoea... you can’t underestimate the impact he has on Chelsea. Against Swansea, he maybe didn’t play his best first half but, when they were reduced to 10 men, he was the only one who was dangerous because he ran past three or four defenders."
- Man City skipper Vincent Komany on Belgium teammate Eden Hazard
- Southampton 0 Everton 3
- Aston Villa 0 Man United 1
- Sunderland 1 Norwich 3
- Swansea 2 Newcastle 0
- Tottenham 2 Stoke 2
- Watford 0 West Brom 0
- West Ham 1 Leicester 2
FUMING MOURINHO IN STAND-OFF WITH PRESS
Jose Mourinho threatened to walk out of Chelsea's press conference on Friday as tempers frayed amidst intense questioning over his handling of doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn.
Even by the outspoken Portuguese's (above) standards, these have been a whirlwind few days at Stamford Bridge following an incident towards the end of last weenend's 2-2 draw with Swansea.
Mourinho was infuriated to see Carneiro and Fearn run onto the field to tend to Eden Hazard, telling the media after the season-opener that their "impulsive and naive" decision showed they did not "understand the game".
The Chelsea boss was condemned by a variety of medical organisations and football personalities for those comments and the subsequent development that the pair's roles were being significantly changed.
Mourinho confirmed on Friday that they would not be on the bench at Manchester City tonight, telling a packed media room at the club's Cobham training that the decision did not mean they would never return.
The Chelsea boss was reluctant to spend the whole press conference speaking about the issue but, once the 19 camera crews, clutch of photographers and broadcast journalists left the room, newspaper reporters pressed him on the matter.
"I don't answer" was the stock response Mourinho gave three times after questions over the issue of medical staff entering field of play was brought up, before Chelsea's head of media Steve Atkins interjected in a bid to calm tensions.
However, the exchanges remained terse and Mourinho's responses curt, before he gave a lengthy, if rambling, answer on the situation.
"The first thing I said to my medical department - and I repeated it three times because I wanted to start the meeting with them having no doubts about it - was if we know, and it is easy to know by many ways, if one player has a problem, the player is more important than the result," Mourinho said.
"He is more important than the manager, he is even more important than the referee. And if the referee does not give you permission to go to the pitch, you go. You go.
"It does not matter if the referee is not happy with that. It does not matter if the manager is not happy with that.
"If you know - if you feel, and it is easy to know when to feel because there are many examples of it - you go and you don't think twice."
Then things became heated.
As another question on the matter was readied, an exasperated Mourinho snapped: "Don't make me another question or I go. I go. Think twice before you ask the question. Think twice."
When the reporter instead directed his question at Atkins, Mourinho got up from his chair and walked to the door saying: "Now I go, have a good weekend."
However, Mourinho was pacified before he could leave the room and returned to his seat.
The Portuguese also rejected the notion he was the most influential man in English football since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
"Power, oh my word," Mourinho said. "Power? Jesus Christ! Power of what? The only power I have is to choose the team that play on Sunday, to choose who goes on the bench, to choose what we do in the week, which exercises we do, which direction we try to take our game plan.
"It is the power I have and that is not power, it is part of my job to advice my board to do something related to the transfer market, to do something in other departments in relation to my needs and experiences. But I have power for nothing."
He was, though, reminded that he referred to himself as the Godfather two years ago.
"I am not the Godfather," he said to laughter in the room. "I am not the Godfather." - PA Sport.