Eden Hazard has just shuffled off a training pitch at this city's International School, the stifling humidity finally threatening to break in a deluge, and first impressions are favourable.
It has been a week since José Mourinho started work with his Chelsea players and this is a squad buoyed by his presence.
"He comes across as very calm when he speaks to us," says the Belgian, all those familiar images of touchline tantrums apparently misleading. "He's a good person. He loves his players and is someone who can make the difference, for sure. We have a real chance this year. But, with a top manager in place, our chances are even greater."
These are early days in Mourinho's second coming, with those players involved at the recent Confederations Cup yet to return for pre-season training, but Hazard's initial assessment reflects this team's underlying optimism.
Only five of those in Thailand for the first leg of a three-game tour – Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and Michael Essien – have played for Mourinho in the past, with the array of younger, wide-eyed talent still adjusting to his methods. Hazard has never even confronted a Mourinho team over his short, if eye-catching, career. After mid-season disruption in the dugout last term, the hope is the 22-year-old's second campaign in English football will be marked by a title challenge.
Mourinho tends to inspire such conviction. He tried to sign Hazard for Real Madrid in 2011, only for the youngster to insist the time was not right to leave Lille with a first campaign in the Champions League to come. "I had so much to prove in the French league still at that time," says the forward.
"I stayed because I didn't want to leave too early, even if, as a teenager, you dream of playing for a club like Real or Chelsea. That's normal. But now I will work with him here. With Mourinho, we know what he is and what he brings: with him in charge, we win matches and win trophies. I've found him a very good person. He laughs and jokes with us a lot out on the training pitch, and that's good to see in a coach. He's calm, yes. I'm sure he can lose his cool as well, obviously, but he's very clear explaining what he wants so we understand his instructions, and we learn.
"It's important he's here. He'll do everything to put things in place, creating the environment for us to do well, but it'll be up to us to deliver the trophies. There'll be big rivals out there, Manchester United, City, Tottenham, Arsenal … but we have a real chance. He's spoken to us all, as a group and individually, and told us what he expects of us. He told me to be ambitious with my game, to keep trying things, and that this could be a special year. I hope this all ends up being productive."
The hope is the summer could also prove productive. Chelsea have recruited Marco van Ginkel, André Schürrle and Mark Schwarzer but are scouring the market for a striker and may seek further experience in central midfield. Wayne Rooney, a player admired by Mourinho, also continues to be mentioned as a potential addition despite United's public insistence to the contrary.
"It's not up to us who comes in, but it's exciting," says Hazard, who was last summer's coup at £32m. "Rooney would be a brilliant signing – un super bon joueur who has experience but who is still only young, at 27. He's got a few years left to play. But it's not up to me. It's not my decision."
Regardless, he hopes his compatriot Romelu Lukaku will be granted an opportunity to make his own impression at Stamford Bridge following last season's impressive loan spell at West Bromwich Albion. "He has a real chance. Romelu has all the qualities you need. As far as I'm concerned he could play up front for us, but Chelsea is Chelsea. There are more forwards at a club like this competing for a place," says Hazard.
Another Belgian, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke, is also under consideration after handing in a transfer request last week. "He had an unbelievable first season for a young striker in the Premier League," says Hazard. "His dream is to play even higher. We speak all the time and he'd told me: 'Right, I've done well, but what next?' So I wasn't surprised [at the transfer request]. He's got all the attributes to do well at a big club."
Hazard has already proven he boasts that pedigree. His first campaign in English football began with a flurry and ended with a flourish, at least until a hamstring injury ruled him out of the Europa League final against Benfica. His own targets are set upon maintaining that encouraging form and development, the demands of a second season, where he will no longer be counted an unknown quantity, very clear. "But there's more to come from me," he adds. "I want to improve, to do better, to make an even bigger impression." Such ambition will impress Mourinho as this team seeks its title challenge.
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image: © Ben Sutherland