From laziest player to Ribery's equal, Mou explains turn in Blue star ethic

Eden Hazard Dribbling

Chelsea manager Mourinho has intimated that now Hazard has dedicated himself he can vie for personal honours along with Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery.

Across the sporting spectrum there are case studies of athletes who failed to dedicate themselves fully to their craft and so never realised their true potential.

Ricky Hatton may be a beloved boxer to mainstream fans, even a modern British great, but in truth, if the Hitman did not binge drink and blow-up in weight between his fights then the two-division world champion may have enjoyed an even greater - certainly longer - career.

While Hatton's work-rate, signature body-punching and inside-fighting all stood out on the world level, all too often there were cases he would turn up on the first day of training camps not in shape, using the first week or two of camp to lose weight he he had gained from too many fry-ups and pints of Guinness, rather than to hone skills necessary for combat.

Hatton never had a young man's fighting style, but if he respected weight-management and nutrition between his bouts, then he could have fought beyond the age of 30 - when most boxers are in their prime.

Contrast that to Floyd Mayweather Jnr who, at 36, is still undefeated, rarely loses a round, exhibits boxing clinics with regularity and has an extraordinary $200m contract with American broadcaster Showtime. Or even to Bernard Hopkins, who is still a world title holder - at 49-years-old, but unlike Hatton, B-Hop - or The Alien - as he now likes to be known, is completely fussy about what goes in his body.

Football is no different. Like boxing (except in the freak cases of Hopkins, or 40-year-old Ryan Giggs) it is a young person's sport but the more you respect your body, the harder you work and the more you dedicate yourself to training, the more you realise your potential.

It is no secret that Chelsea have a superstar who, at certain points during his stay at Stamford Bridge, loathed to train. There were rumours he was the last to turn up to Cobham for practice, the first to run off for lunch and the first to leave. Considering he is the club's biggest talent, it is logical to presume that, if he worked harder, he would perform even better on match-days begging the question - does his ability have a ceiling?

That player was, well, is… Eden Hazard. He is now different and, speaking with the Evening Standard, Jose Mourinho had more: 'Eden can become one of the best players in the world.

'Now he sees his football and profession with different eyes. He understood how there is a gap between the talent and the performance and a gap between the occasional performance and the permanent stability at a high level. He now understands how he can fill this gap.

'He trains much better, he concentrates much better. Tactically, he has had a big evolution. He understands how to put his qualities on the surface of the team. He understands the best way to hide his weaknesses. He is 23 and now in his second season in England after an experience in France. He is playing in a Chelsea side trying to win the Premier League, also the Champions League, and is going to the World Cup with Belgium.

'He has in his hands all the tools to fill these gaps.'

Mourinho continued: 'Everyone knows he is a talented player, that he was that when he arrived here. But now he is trying to go to a different level, we are helping him and he is doing it step by step. Hopefully, the big talent can transform himself into the big player.'

Considering Hazard's already impressive statistics this season, just how much can he improve with this confirmed re-dedication?

Eden Hazard 9 50 41 128 21 1,746

Judging by the statistics above, Hazard is responsible for a goal or an assist (5) once every 124 minutes, he creates a clear chance on goal every 34 minutes and attempts a dribble every 13 minutes. He has also had 1,357 touches on the football, has a passing accuracy of 82% and, when in the final third - where he would be under more pressure from the opposition - his passing range does not even suffer, evidence of his composure and ability on the football - as he finds a team-mate 80% of the time.

Mourinho speaks of Hazard's future, that there will be a time where he is heralded akin to the best… like Franck Ribery, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In order to do that, this focus on the training pitch, will need to see a 50% rise in his attacking efficiency - so that he returns a goal/assist every 85 minutes, which would be closer to Ribery's average of one every 77 minutes, but still paling in comparison to Messi (every 67 minutes) and Ronaldo (every 60 minutes).

Where Hazard would have the edge, though, is his creation. Even Messi (every 38 minutes), on current form, does not create chances as prolifically as Hazard.

If Eden wants to realise his full potential, as Mourinho hopes he shall, then he will do well to learn from the current best - 2013 Ballon d'Or winning Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, whose work-rate and extra-curricular training regimen was commended by his former team-mate at Manchester United; Rio Ferdinand, who wrote the following in an open letter…

'When I first met Ronnie at Carrington, he came across as a really determined lad - a rough diamond who was prepared to work as hard as he could in order to fulfill his potential.

'Thousands of hours of graft both in the gym and on the training ground turned him into the perfect specimen.'

image: © Ben Sutherland

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