Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has pleaded to referees to give him more protection from rough tackles on the pitch, singling out Stoke’s Phil Bardsley as a particularly aggressive offender.
Hazard, who won the PFA and Writers Player of the Year awards last season, was the most fouled player in the Premier League last season, has revealed he has had to take anti-inflammatories after some games, due to the amount of pain he was suffering.
The Belgium international has picked out Bardsley in his plea, referring to a late challenge which resulted in only a yellow card for the no-nonsense defender.
Hazard feels tougher action needs to be taken, as he prepares to help his side defend their Premier League title. He said: “If the referees can protect me, it would be good for me. They know now that I get a lot of kicks and I want to be protected by the referee.
Sometimes I am in pain after games. I have to take some anti-inflammatories or something like that. I like to have the ball at my feet and when I have the ball at my feet, I get a lot of kicks. But this is football.
“Whenever I feel pain, I try to keep a smile on my face. Sometimes, I get kicked, sometimes not. We have a lot of physio, and they work very well because we play every three or four days. It’s important.
The worst tackle? Of course against Stoke. Bardsley. When I see the video, it’s crazy. But I just play. I always say after the game, if I’ve had a lot of kicks, the game was good.”
Jose Mourinho has also expressed his frustration and concern over the somewhat aggressive tackles seen being used on his player on numerous occasions, more of which were showcased in the Blues’ friendly against New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
However, the 24-year-old has has stepped up his training regime to get physically stronger to cope with the tackles he receives.
He added: “I work in training in the gym. I have to work. If I don’t work and do the training, the defenders they kill me. It’s my job. How do I stay calm when I get kicked on the pitch? I’m like this. I don’t speak a lot to the players or the defenders. I just want to play, to dribble something, to do some skills.
“I just want to win the game and my job is to score goals, to create and try to take the advantage against my opponents. I try to play my game, my football and my football is with the ball and I will never change my style of football.”
Despite being labelled world-class by many around the world, Hazard himself has attempted to distance himself from the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He achieved a personal best in a Chelsea shirt last season, scoring 19 goals as he helped them win the Premier League for the first time since 2010, and the Capital One Cup.
But he said: “If I want to reach this level [of Messi and Ronaldo], I have to score 40, 50 goals just for one season. I think last season I scored 19. Maybe it’s good but maybe it’s not enough.
“Is it possible? Yes. If they score 60 goals it’s possible. Maybe not in the Premier League but we will see. Maybe. Why not? But my main goal for the season is just to bring a trophy to Stamford Bridge.”
Mourinho, however, has said that he believes the playmaker has the potential to become the best in the world.
“That’s a bit of pressure for me!” said Hazard. “But I try to enjoy. It doesn’t matter if I’m the best or not the best. I just want to play and give pleasure on the pitch and to win trophies at the end of the season.
“[The manager and I] have a very good relationship. He knows I give everything on the pitch and he loves that. When you give for him, he gives back for you.”