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Thu Apr 17 00:47:22 SAST 2014

Hazard can be Chelsea's new Zola, says Di Matteo

Sapa-AFP | 22 August, 2012 13:040 Comments
Chelsea v Seattle Sounders
Eden Hazard #17 of Chelsea FC dribbles against Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on July 18, 2012 in Seattle, Washington
Image by: Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo believes Eden Hazard’s dazzling debut proves the Belgium playmaker has the potential to emulate Blues legend Gianfranco Zola.

Hazard announced his arrival in the Premier League with a sublime display capped by assists for both goals in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Wigan on Sunday.

  The 21-year-old was already regarded as one of the brightest young stars in Europe after helping Lille win the French title in 2011 and then earning the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award last season.

  And, after paying £32 million ($50.4 million, 40.6 million euros) to sign him from Lille in the close-season, Di Matteo is already seeing similarities with the elegant skills of Zola, who he starred alongside for both Chelsea and Italy during the 1990s.

  “It’s difficult to compare players. Gianfranco was a wonderful talent, an artist I would say,” Di Matteo said. “Eden might become an artist as well. After one game, it’s probably a bit too early.

  “He had a good start but it’s one game out of 38 in the league.

It certainly gives him and the others confidence, starting with a new club like that. It was a pleasant day for him.

  “He’s a talented man, a talented young boy. We’ll have to see how he grows into a man and how quickly he will be an important player for Chelsea.”  While comparisons with Zola, often regarded as the club’s greatest ever player, are still premature, Di Matteo has been delighted with the way Hazard has adapted to English football.

  As well as demonstrating his gifts on the ball, Hazard also showed a steely side that will be invaluable in the ultra-aggressive Premier League after surviving batterings from Manchester City in the Community Shield and in his league debut.

  “It was great to see him enjoying himself as well and getting his teeth into the Premier League,” he said.

  “You’re never quite sure how the new players will adapt and I’m sure it will take him a bit of time to get used to the physicality and tempo of the Premier League.

  “It’s good he got used to it quickly because that’s how it’s going to be. He’s a strong man, a strong boy. Strongly built as well. It will certainly help him. We spoke during pre-season about the Premier League.

  “He’s a young man but he already has a lot of experience in terms of playing games. He knows how to handle himself.” 

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