Chelsea boss Antonio Conte wants Eden Hazard to continue to put the team before himself – and has denied claims the Belgian must become ‘more selfish’ to become the very best.
The Belgium playmaker made a decisive impact as a substitute as Chelsea beat Tottenham 4-2 in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
Hazard has been a key figure in Chelsea’s bid for a possible double and netted his 15th goal of the season against Spurs, who are four points behind the Premier League leaders with six games to go.
And afterwards Cesc Fabregas stated his belief that Hazard was second in ability only to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and can improve if he is more “selfish” and shows a greater “killer instinct”.
But Conte reckons players can only be great by playing as part of a team.
“The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent in the team,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player.
“The best players in the world don’t exist without the team.
“For me, it’s sad when I listen to this, that one player must be more selfish to reach the top level. This is not my idea of football. I never will understand this. Never.
“In my team I don’t want selfish players. I prefer to lose a game, than to have a selfish player.
“I don’t want this, I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to one day buy me a selfish player, never.”
The Blues could complete the double in Conte’s first season in charge after advancing to the May 27 final, where they will face Arsenal.
But they need to respond from two losses in their last four Premier League matches, to Crystal Palace and Manchester United, beginning at home to Southampton on Tuesday night.
And Conte is uncertain if his team have struck a psychological blow by beating Spurs.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Conte said. “I think for us it was important this win. You reach the final in the FA Cup, a great competition. And for us it’s great.
“It’s great to know when after a week we finish the championship we have to play a final in the FA Cup.
“These are two different competitions and we have six games to go. It’s important to start this rush (of fixtures) very well, to try to keep these four points (the lead).”
Chelsea play at sixth-placed Everton on Sunday in what appears to be their toughest remaining fixture.
Three games in eight days follow, at home to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough, at West Brom and against the Baggies’ fellow mid-table side Watford at Stamford Bridge.
Their Premier League season concludes against current bottom club Sunderland on May 21.
Tottenham appear to have a more difficult run-in, with fixtures against Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester United, Leicester and Hull.
Conte said: “First of all it’s important to win for us and to look at ourselves.”
Chelsea team news v Southampton
Defender Gary Cahill is Chelsea’s only doubt for the Saints clash.
Cahill, Chelsea’s on-field captain for much of this season, missed the Wembley clash due to gastroenteritis, but returned to full training on Sunday and Monday. Nathan Ake replaced Cahill against Spurs and could continue.
Hazard and striker Diego Costa could return to the starting line-up after coming off the substitutes’ bench against Tottenham.
Conte on Kante Player of the Year honour
Midfielder N’Golo Kante was on Sunday named as the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year.
Conte maintains Kante, a Premier League winner with Leicester last season, can get even better.
“We must be proud for him. It’s a great achievement,” the Chelsea boss added.
“It’s important for him (not to) stop this will, this desire, to continue to improve yourself.”