Eden Hazard was the most dangerous attacking player on the pitch during Chelsea’s FA Cup victory against Manchester United.
A constant menace with his dribbling and his movement, the Belgian superstar caused United problems all night long. This was despite him being on the receiving end of a series of challenges which could be most politely described as ‘agricultural’.
We’re not saying Jose Mourinho sent his team out with instructions to rough up Chelsea’s key man, but…
Really, REALLY overwhelming.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was so annoyed by the strategy, he publicly slammed the treatment of Hazard in his post-match interview. “We came to play football,” he said, “but for 25 minutes it was impossible for Eden Hazard to play, because he was kicked.”
The irony of seeing a team managed by Mourinho set out to ‘physically unsettle’ Hazard will not have brought a smile to the face of many Premier League fans.
After all, you don’t have to go back too far to find the former Chelsea boss getting very angry about other teams doing precisely that…
January 2015: “They kick and kick and kick”
“People in love with football in this country, people must be in love with Eden Hazard.
“The way match to match he’s being punished by opponents and not protected by referees, maybe one day we won’t have Eden Hazard.
“It’s one, two, three, four, five or 10 aggressive fouls against him. They kick and kick and kick, and the kid resists.
“He’s a very honest guy in the way he plays, but that’s another problem.”
February 2015: “He wants a shinpad to cover his whole leg”
“Eden has asked me to speak with some friends of mine who make carbon shin-pads. He wants one that covers the whole leg. Like a horse.
“Normally, if you get 100 fouls, the opponents will get a certain percentage of yellow cards.
“So if he is the most fouled player he should be the player creates more cards in the opponent. But he isn’t.”
February 2015: “Give cards to the opponents, follow the rules of the game. It’s as simple as that”
[After Hazard was fouled a record nine times during a Champions League match at PSG, with Marco Verratti the culprit on three occasions]
“For example, what happened with Verratti. If (Hazard’s) another player, he dives, stays on the floor, rolls in the grass, screams. He’s asking for cards and cards and cards.
“This kid Hazard is pure. When he goes to the floor it is for a reason and there were nine fouls on him.
“In the Premier League it’s no different. For example at Stoke, which was an unbelievable situation, and this is what happens game after game.
“Give cards to the opponents, follow the rules of the game. It’s as simple as that.”
July 2015: “I would like more protection for him, but it’s beyond my control”
“In the Premier League last season Eden was very lucky not to break a leg.”
“He could have been injured many, many times. He suffered more than a couple of nasty tackles and could have been in trouble.
“I saw lots of players breaking legs and ankles with less than that.
“I would like more protection for him, but it’s beyond my control. The only thing I can do is what I am doing and what Eden is doing, which is to work and work to be stronger and stronger. I don’t want to change his mentality or personality. I don’t want him crying or overreacting.
“I don’t want someone to touch his shoulder and he reacts by throwing his hands in his face like some players do. I want Eden to be what he is – absolutely fantastic.”