Benitez lauds POTY nominee Hazard

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez believes forward Eden Hazard fully deserves to be nominated for the Premier League Player of the Year award.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates


Hazard reportedly turned down offers from Manchester City and Manchester United to join Chelsea in a £32m move from Lille during last summer's transfer window.

The Belgian international enjoyed a superb start to his Chelsea career, but a mid-season dip in form and a high-profile spat with a ballboy in the Blues' Capital One Cup semi-final against Swansea took the gloss off the 22-year-old's debut season for the club.

However, Benitez believes Hazard has thus far had a positive impact on Chelsea and insists the forward's Player of the Year nomination was fully deserved.

"He [Hazard] was a good player before and still is," Benitez was quoted as saying by the official Chelsea website.

"It was bad for us because we lost him for three games [having been suspended after the ballboy spat]. He is doing well. At the beginning they didn't know him, and also Oscar, so he was dynamic and difficult to stop. Afterwards defenders adjusted themselves but still you can see his quality.

"He has a special talent and can change without thinking and be effective. He likes to play in the number 10 position and it is one of our strengths to have three players who can play in this position.

"We have some good players who can be Player of the Year. Another is David Luiz, he has played the whole season at a very good level, and playing so many games in different positions

"He has more control. We talk about what I expect from him. He is a clever player with quality and it's a question of time before he gets better and better. We tried to tell him he doesn't need to go to ground, he is a clever player. He likes to play, and as a midfielder he can go forward and is a threat.

"In this position you have to run more than as a centre-back, so I will talk to him, see how he feels [for Swansea] and after we will decide. We also have Ramires or Frank Lampard so we will see.

"In defence, Gary Cahill is available. On Thursday I needed to decide which kind of players, experience or pace, and with David in the middle I could see we were protected and wanted to play with experience."

The Blues, currently involved in a fight with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to finish in the top four of the Premier League, will take on Swansea in their next fixture, and Benitez admits he is an admirer of the the Capital One Cup winners.

"They have a nice style and are dangerous in possession, so I think they will do well in Europe," Benitez declared. 

"They have done things in a way they like to do, and they are doing well."

Chelsea were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Swansea, and Benitez has urged his players to learn from the mistakes they made over the course of the two legs of their semi-final encounter with the Swans.

"In the [first leg] we had three or four chances and could have scored goals, but made two mistakes," Benitez added.

"We were disappointed for that but the performance was not as bad as the result. We deserved to score at home, so hopefully we can do well and score this time.

"As soon as we lost the first game we knew the second was quite difficult. David Luiz was coming back from injury, and we know about Eden Hazard and the ballboy. 

"We were really disappointed because we knew we could do it but we didn't do it."

Chelsea are currently fourth in the table on 62 points.

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