Eden Hazard, a beneficiary of Ross Barkley’s midfield play at Southampton on Sunday, believes the 24-year-old is destined for big things given his recent rate of improvement.
Barkley received widespread acclaim for his influence in Sunday’s win. He had the highest pass completion rate of any player on the pitch making 50 passes or more, and one of those after he won the ball led to Hazard opening the scoring. It was reminiscent of an earlier assist away in Greece when Barkley powered forward and supplied the pass for Willian’s deadlock breaker against PAOK.
The highlight of his display at Southampton however was his first goal for Chelsea, the second-half second goal in a 3-0 win.
‘He [Barkley] played a fantastic game,’ praised Hazard, ‘and it is not just because he scored a goal or that he made an assist. You can see on the pitch that he is very strong. He had some bad moments in the last year or two years with injury but I think he can reach a fantastic level because he is a fantastic player. I remember watching him at Everton. He is still young so I think he is a good player for the future with Chelsea.’
Hazard believes his team-mate’s increasing on-pitch utilisation by Maurizio Sarri is breeding confidence, and he added:
‘If you give Ross the freedom to play and the confidence on the pitch, he can be one of the best in the world in midfield. He is strong, he is powerful, he can dribble, he is clever, he can shoot, he can score and he can make assists. If he has players around him to help him to play, he can be one of the best.’