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Saturday 21 April 2018

Mourinho's special project working treat with 'kid' Hazard coming of age

Hull City 0 Chelsea 2

Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea
Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea

Ian Chadband

He says he will keep calling Eden Hazard a kid, but Jose Mourinho reckons he can see the young Belgian turning into the man who can make all the difference for him, the exceptional player that Chelsea always fancied he must surely become.

With a third successive man-of-the-match performance against Hull, capped by another exquisite goal -- that is three, plus two assists, in Chelsea's last five games -- here was evidence at the KC Stadium of how Mourinho's very own 'Eden project' is now truly flowering under his tender, loving care.

The Portuguese talks about Hazard with particular enthusiasm, like the gardener who knows what special attention you have to lavish on your rarest, most precious orchid. The wunderkind that Chelsea signed from Lille may initially not have put in the effort in training, nor worked hard enough during matches, to merit the £32m price tag.

Yet after 17 months, particularly having discovered since Mourinho's arrival that possessing magic feet is all very well but you also need discipline, commitment and to be a team player to really impress the Special One, Hazard is increasingly making that sum look a snip.

"He is a kid and I'll call him a kid, no problem, but to be a talented player is not to be a top player and I think he is going in that direction," Mourinho said. "He is an easy boy to coach, a good boy but he just needed to improve and understand that if he wants to be really big, he needed to work and feel his profession in a different way."

Now, he felt, he had a flexible, more versatile operator who, stronger and more able to cope with the rough and tumble of the Premier League, he could now deploy as a weapon to be unleashed from any angle. "It is the natural evolution of things," Mourinho said.

"Physically he will get stronger, his appetite to score goals has to improve too and his responsibility, being the fantastic player he is, to cope with the tackles he is getting."

On what felt a lazy Saturday lunchtime with Chelsea labouring a little, efficient but uninspired, only one man looked like finding the key to beating an inspired Allan McGregor.

Hazard offers the X-factor that Sergio Aguero can bring to Manchester City or Luis Suarez for Liverpool. One of those little darts from the left, cutting across from the edge of the box, inducing panic in the home defence and then checking his dance for an instant just to give himself the extra split second to bury his strike with precision. Brilliant.

From that 56th minute, Chelsea were home and dry. Mourinho had the added satisfaction of seeing Fernando Torres seal the win with a direct run and left-foot finish which echoed his old Liverpool pomp.

Mourinho's green fingers, you suspect, are beginning to work their wonders again. He reiterated that Juan Mata, an unused sub, would not be sold. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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