Mourinho has a special message for Eden Hazard ahead of Chelsea’s Liverpool showdown
Jose Mourinho insists that he has no hard feelings with Eden Hazard following his departure from Chelsea.
The Portuguese coach was sacked by the Blues back in December after a disastrous start to the season for the west London club, in which Hazard struggled for both form and fitness.
Mourinho has since taken over at Manchester United, while Antonio Conte is the new man in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking in the build-up to Saturday’s Manchester derby, Mourinho was asked about the reported breakdown in relationship between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
However, the United boss played down the suggestions and used his situation with Hazard as another example.
Mourinho is quoted as saying by The London Evening Standard: “I never read Zlatan saying that Guardiola is a bad manager.
“I never read it. I don’t think he is motivated. It is normal between managers and players you have more connections with some than others, but that doesn’t mean you hate each other.
“I read something, for example, that Eden [Hazard] is in love with Antonio [Conte] and was not in love with me. But he’s not my enemy, it’s just feeling, that’s fine. I am happy for him.
Manchester United are currently preparing for their Europa League opener against Feyenoord on Thursday night.
Hazard, meanwhile, will be expecting to feature when Chelsea take on Liverpool in the Premier League on Friday night.
It was little surprise to see Hazard, who did not score a Premier League goal last season until April and cut a forlorn figure for long periods of the campaign, named on the shortlist for August’s divisional player of the month.
Nor should anyone be shocked to see his manager, Antonio Conte, in line for the equivalent award. Hazard ended last season brightly, but the decline of their most gifted player was symptomatic of Chelsea’s wider malaise.
That his improvement has accelerated since Conte’s arrival does not appear a coincidence, and just like those darker times, his reinvigoration — already averaging more than twice as many shots on goal as last season — feels closely linked to that of his team.
Conte has put Chelsea straight on the front foot.
“At the beginning it was a bit scary because he works players initially,” believes Oscar, another player cutting an entirely different figure under the Italian. “But when you look at the results on the pitch you know he’s done it for a reason. It’s good for me.”
This hard work has been designed to replicate the high-energy approach that will be familiar to anybody versed in Conte’s work with Juventus and, more recently, Italy.
The signing of N’Golo Kante was fundamental to hastening the change and the indefatigable France international appears to have caused those around him to step up a gear.
You need someone to set the tone and Kante, stationed in front of the defence with license to maraud as appropriate, does exactly that. Nemanja Matic, often subdued last season, has certainly looked his dynamic self and Hazard’s burst of life have been less fitful, more in line with the high demands Conte places on his wide players.
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