LONDON (AP) — Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho took a swipe at Eden Hazard, arguably his best player this season, after the Belgium international blamed team tactics for their Champions League exit.
Hazard, who has been pivotal in Chelsea's English Premier League title challenge, said after the 3-1 home defeat against Atletico Madrid in the semifinals second leg this week that the team was not set up "to play football" but to excel on counterattacks.
At a news conference on Friday, Mourinho said Hazard's comments were not critical, but he did not miss the opportunity to humble his player.
"When the comments come from a player like Eden it's normal because he's not the kind of player to sacrifice himself for the team," Mourinho said.
Hazard's failure to track back allowed Atletico to equalize in Wednesday's game, a costly error on his return from a calf injury.
"Normally you get these kind of comments from players like him, from players that can't resolve a problem like we had in the first goal," Mourinho insisted. "Eden is the kind of player that is not so mentally ready to look back to his left-back and to leave his life for him."
Mourinho previously spoke highly of Hazard, describing him as the finest young player in the world following his crucial role in a 1-0 away defeat of Manchester City in February. But Mourinho insisted on Friday that Hazard — who has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain this summer — must improve.
"I'm not happy," Mourinho said. "I speak all season and I try to improve him all season."
Chelsea plays Norwich on Sunday in the Premier League before a final game at Cardiff. The Blues need to win both matches and bet on slip-ups by Manchester City and Liverpool to stand a chance of winning the title.
"The only thing we can do is win both matches," Mourinho said. "Imagine if we are not champions because we don't win these two matches. It wouldn't be a good feeling for the players."
Mourinho, who has complained about the lack of quality in his strike force, did not comment on a reportedly agreed deal with Atletico forward Diego Costa, who scored at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
"We are going to do some, I would say a couple, of critical signings," the Portuguese tactician said. "Is a striker a target for us? Yes, we never deny that. Is Diego a good player? He is, but he's an Atletico Madrid player so I cannot say much."
- Sports & Recreation
- Jose Mourinho
- Eden Hazard
- Atletico Madrid
- English Premier League