Ross Barkley has claimed Eden Hazard’s unselfishness gives him the edge over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and the mantle of best player in the world on current form.
The Chelsea forward struck a stunning individual goal to inflict a first defeat of the season on Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, beating four players before scoring in the 85th minute at Anfield. It was the 27-year-old’s sixth goal in seven games for Maurizio Sarri’s side and prompted Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea’s assistant manager, to describe Hazard as one of the finest players on the planet.
Barkley went further, insisting the Belgium international’s contribution to the team elevated him above Messi and Ronaldo on current form. The Chelsea midfielder said: “Oh God, you see him do that every day in training so you’re not surprised when you see him do it in a game like that – but what a goal. He’s one of the best players in the world and he shows it. He’s been showing it for the last five or six years and he is establishing himself in the top three players in the world. At the minute, he’s probably the best player in the world, the way he is playing.”
When asked if he really thought Hazard could compare to Messi and Ronaldo, Barkley replied: “Of course. They are probably a lot more selfish than Eden is. He is not a selfish player. He is happy getting two assists and the team winning. He is adding goals and he keeps improving … At the minute, he is the best player in the world, I believe.
“He is capable of producing magic at any moment in the game. He keeps defenders on the back foot and sometimes you see him attracting two or three players and that creates space for others, like myself, our other wingers and the strikers. When he gets closed down, he opens up space for others.”
Sarri and Jürgen Klopp will field different teams in Saturday’s Premier League reunion at Stamford Bridge yet Barkley believes the cup win can have an impact. “That will give us a lot of confidence for the weekend,” he said.
The former Everton midfielder made an encouraging return to Merseyside having been plagued by injury since the summer of 2017. That contributed to a slow start at Chelsea and cost Barkley his England place ahead of the World Cup but the 24-year-old is confident that, with more game time under Sarri, his international prospects will improve along with his form.
“I have got a platform,” said Barkley. “I am at a massive club in Chelsea and we are going to challenge for all the titles this season. I believe that. I want to let my feet do the talking for my club and, if that happens, I believe I will be back on the international scene sooner rather than later.”