'Refs must give world-beater Hazard proper protection'
Eden Hazard was fortunate to escape having his leg broken last season, Jose Mourinho has claimed.
The Chelsea manager said that Hazard, the PFA Player of the Year, could have been seriously injured when he was targeted by opponents and reiterated his demand for better protection.
Hazard was statistically the most fouled player in Europe but still played every Premier League game to contribute a huge amount to Chelsea's title triumph.
Mourinho believes that Hazard is punished by officials because he does not feign injury or complain about his treatment.
But the Chelsea manager fears that the playmaker may not be so lucky this season if opponents are allowed to get away with wild tackling.
"In the Premier League last season Eden was very lucky not to break a leg," Mourinho said. "He could have been injured many, many times. He suffered more than a couple of nasty tackles and could have been in trouble. I saw lots of players breaking legs and ankles with less than that.
"I would like more protection for him, but it's beyond my control. The only thing I can do is what I am doing and what Eden is doing, which is to work and work to be stronger and stronger.
"I don't want to change his mentality or personality. I don't want him crying or overreacting. I don't want someone to touch his shoulder and he reacts by throwing his hands in his face like some players do. I want Eden to be what he is - fantastic."
Mourinho is convinced that Hazard has now elevated himself into the top three players in the world, alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid manager has even claimed that Hazard can be judged ahead of Ronaldo, based on trophies rather than personal success.
Ronaldo scored 60 goals last season but Real finished the campaign without a single piece of silverware.
When asked whether he considered Hazard to be above Ronaldo, Mourinho said: "Last season, yes. I don't like players or managers to win individual trophies without the team."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)