I need a great game – Hazard aiming for Messi heights
Eden Hazard knows he must shine in matches like Chelsea's Champions League last-16 showdown with Barcelona on Tuesday if he wants to be considered in the same bracket as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hazard starred in Chelsea's 2014-15 and 2016-17 title-winning campaigns in the Premier League, but there is a lingering sense that Europe's top competition is yet to see the best of the Belgium playmaker.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Barcelona's visit to Stamford Bridge, Hazard reminded reporters of his fine displays in the group stage against Atletico Madrid this season, but knows where he stands in the overall pecking order.
"I played again Messi once in the World Cup against Argentina and we lost the game. I hope tomorrow is going to be different," said the 27-year-old, recalling Belgium's disappointment at Brazil 2014.
"It's good to be compared with the greatest ever, Messi or Ronaldo, but I'm completely different.
"We play in a different league. I try to do my job and try to reach their level, because they are the best in the world. Every season I try and do my best.
"When we play these kind of games, we need to perform. If you want to be one of the best, you have to play well in the big games.
"Every game I try and play my best football. Every week in the Premier League. Last year we didn't play Champions League, but this year we are back and I played a few good games – Atletico Madrid away, Roma, here against Madrid.
"You want to shine when you play the best in the world. If I want to reach that level, I need to do a great game tomorrow."
Final preparations at Cobham this afternoon! pic.twitter.com/JrRk8Te6dY— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 19, 2018
Not for the first time, recent transfer speculation has linked Hazard with a move to Barcelona's sworn rivals Real Madrid at the end of this season.
The player himself insists he is happy at Chelsea and, if he is Madrid-bound, his effusive praise for Barca – repeatedly calling them one of the best teams in the world – was arguably ill-advised.
"First, I see the game tomorrow. We are going to face Barca," he replied when asked about Los Blancos.
"I have played for Chelsea for now six years. I'm just happy here. Like you say, I have two years left on my contract.
"I'm happy here, my family is happy here. Now I'm just focused on the game [and until] the end of the season.
"I don't think much about the future because you never know what happens in the future, but I'm just happy here."