Antonio Conte has revealed he guided Eden Hazard back to his best by telling the Belgium midfielder to both play and act like a superstar.
Hazard’s masterful finish helped Chelsea inch ever closer to the Premier League title with Saturday’s 3-1 win at Bournemouth.
This time last year Hazard broke a 355-day Premier League scoring duck with a brace in Chelsea’s 4-1 win on the south coast as the Blues laboured towards a 10th-place finish.
Fast forward a year and Hazard has 14 league goals and is closing in on a second league title in three years – and Conte believes that resurgence revolves around belief and confidence.
“I am happy for Eden and he scored a good goal; he is doing a good job, good work during the game,” said Conte.
“He is a great player, a great talent and he must understand that he is a great player and never forget this.
“I think that every coach’s real function is not only to win but a good coach tries to improve the players and also tries to find the right way to work with them – tactical aspects and physical aspects -to show them the situation that they can improve.
“I think a good coach, a good manager must do this, not only to win or to buy the best players in the world.”
Hazard was among a nucleus of Chelsea stars who suffered a major drop in form last season, with the Blues’ lacklustre results costing Jose Mourinho his job in December 2015.
Hazard and company will now face old boss Mourinho in next weekend’s clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but Conte has rejected all talk of the meeting of Chelsea bosses old and new.
Asked if United will gain extra motivation by attempting to dent Chelsea’s title drive, Conte replied: “I do not know about this, I think Manchester United for sure will have good motivation, because we are playing against Chelsea. Every team will want to beat us.
“For sure it is important in every game to try to take three points and this game will be very tough. We are in good form, the players have the right confidence and then we want to try to win but in the same way that United will try to win.”
And when quizzed on his regard for Mourinho’s time and success at Chelsea, Conte would only reply: “I think I have already replied to this question before.”
Chelsea’s boss was far more forthcoming on heaping pressure onto himself and his own side, insisting the Blues love the title-race heat.
“To have a great season, to write history, you must win,” said Conte.
“When you start the season as underdogs, I think it’s greater if you are able to do this. We are showing great character, great desire, great will to fight for the title.
“But when we started the season, nobody thought that Chelsea could fight for the title and instead we have found the right motivation together.
“Now we have stayed there, top of the league, and have tried to change the opinion of the others.”