Cole: Hazard can be Chelsea’s best ever

Former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has high expectations for Eden Hazard, whose talent he first noticed when they played together at Lille.

Hazard is recovering from an ankle injury that could be a blessing in disguise if it keeps Real Madrid from hunting his signature, as Cole considers the 26-year-old to be a rare talent.

"It is a shame he got this injury with Belgium but with the speculation that was coming, on a selfish point of view for Chelsea, it might mean that we can keep hold of him for another year,” Cole told Goal.

"For me, he is the best player at the club. I think he is the best player in the league. I can’t speak highly enough of him. He would be very expensive to replace. I don’t know where you could go to replace him.”

The Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder, who also once wore the No. 10 jersey for the Blues, remembers his first impression of Hazard back in 2011 when Cole joined Lille on loan from Liverpool and found himself playing alongside Ligue 1’s most precociously talented youngster.

"When I went to speak to coach Rudi Garcia about playing at Lille he said 'ok we have got Dimitri Payet, who is a very, very good player and we have got Eden Hazard, who is a special player. We have got this formation and here’s where we are playing you, Hazard and Payet.' 

"I had heard about him, he was linked with clubs already when I signed. On my debut, he scored two goals and I saw that he was a special player. He was like a hero there, he came through the system. I knew straight away. 

"Players are the best judge and when you play with someone and see him day-in, day-out I knew he was a special player. I was asked about him [by Chelsea]. Obviously, I gave him a glowing endorsement, I remember talking about it. "