Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has played Eden Hazard as a centre forward in recent games and the Belgian scored twice as Chelsea beat Watford 2-1 on Boxing Day.
Hazard has now admitted he does not mind playing centre forward, a position where he has been deployed in the last four Premier League games, but he prefers to play wide.
Sarri successfully converted Dries Mertens from a winger to a striker at Napoli and has been hoping to achieve the same thing with Eden Hazard at Chelsea but Hazard does not believe Sarri will be able to transform him into the kind of prolific scoring false nine that Dries Mertens blossomed into under the Italian at Napoli.
Four appearances playing a false nine has yielded three goals and three assists for Hazard raising hopes that he could make a similar transition to Mertens, who netted 28 goals in 35 Serie A appearances in the 2016-17 season after Sarri shifted him centrally but Hazard insists he sees himself more as a playmaker than as a striker compared to Mertens who just wants to stay in the box.
“Dries is more of a striker than me,” Hazard said. “I am more like a playmaker. Since I started [playing] football I like to come and touch the ball. Dries is not like this, he just wants to stay in the box. That’s why he scores a lot of goals.
“We are different, but I know Sarri likes to change some positions and that happens sometimes.”
Asked if he thinks he will score more regularly if he plays as a striker full-time, Hazard replied: “Yes, for sure. But I will score more goals also if I play as a winger… my position is winger.
“I feel better as a winger, but like [against Watford] I did well as a striker, against Brighton I did well as a striker, so the manager chooses where to put me on the pitch and then I try to do my best.”
With 10 goals and nine assists in 18 Premier League appearances, Hazard is on course to produce the best statistical season of his Chelsea career but the Belgian captain doesn’t believe this is his best season in a Chelsea shirt. Hazard believes he is short of the standard he maintained to win the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards in 2014-15.
“I score more goals, but I don’t feel I play better,” Hazard added. “I just score more goals.”
Hazard has 18 months left on his Chelsea contract but has delayed signing a new contract amid interest from Real Madrid.
The Belgian has now revealed for the first time he is prepared to wait until the end of the season before he makes a decision on his Chelsea future.
It seems it will take more than big wages to convince Hazard to stay at Stamford Bridge. Hazard reportedly wants to be back playing Champions League football again and he wants the club to show ambition in the transfer market.
When asked about his future, Hazard said: “I will see at the end of the season. I am just focused on the pitch.”
This comes after Hazard gave fans hopes he will extend his Chelsea contract after revealing he wants to be a Chelsea legend like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry following Chelsea’s win at Watford.