The Belgian, who collected virtually every domestic Player of the Year award last season, has been working hard to keep it up. He has already been fouled a lot in the two pre-season games so far and two players were shown yellow cards as result in matches which were supposed to “friendlies”.
“Sometimes I am in pain after games,” he told The Observer. “I have to take some anti-inflammatories or something like that but 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.
“If I don’t work and do the training, the defenders will kill me. It’s my job.
“If the referees can protect me, it would be good for me because they know now that I get a lot of kicks and I want to be protected by the referee.”
Whenever I feel pain, I try to keep a smile on my face. Always happy.
“Sometimes I get kicked, sometimes not. We have a lot of physios and they work very well because we play every three or four days. It’s important. I am able to stay calm, though. That’s just the way I am. I don’t speak a lot to the players or the defenders. I just want to play, to dribble, to do some skills.
“I never reacted to tackles, even when I was younger. Maybe growing up playing with my brothers helped me. When I was younger, I kept the ball at my feet and my brother tried to catch the ball and, of course, I got a lot of kicks but it became a habit.”
The worst one last season was against Stoke, with Phil Bardsley. When I see the video… it’s crazy. I just play. I always say after the game that, if I’ve had a lot of kicks, the game was good. I don’t care about kicks – I just want to score.
Didier Drogba compared Hazard’s style as a fusion of styles Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s two best players. Hazard, when pushed during an interview last year, admitted that he might be among the top five players in the world but has to score more goals.
“If I want to reach this level, I have to score 40, 50 goals just for one season,” he remarked. “I think last season I scored 19. Maybe it’s good but maybe it’s not enough.
Asked about expectations for this season, he remarked, “Everything is possible. If we train hard, if we play like we did last season, we can be better. Of course, in the Champions League we have to do better to reach the final or the semi-final. It will be a good season.”