Jose Mourinho believes Eden Hazard can be considered one of the world's top two players alongside Lionel Messi after he led Chelsea to Premier League and Capital One Cup success last season, rating his recent form above that of Cristiano Ronaldo.
When it was put to Mourinho that most people believe Messi and Ronaldo are the best, the Portuguese manager replied: "They have to win some titles, no?," reported Rob Draper of the MailOnline. He continued: "Football without titles is nothing. Messi won the treble. He won three competitions last year, he reached the Copa America final. He had a fantastic season for him and for his team."
The Blues boss was then asked if Ronaldo would not be in the top two because Madrid missed out on their key trophies last season, per Draper: "I think so. I don't like players or managers to win individual trophies without the team."
This last point can be seen as a jab at Ronaldo, who won the Golden Shoe award for netting 48 goals in La Liga last term. He also captured the Pichichi trophy for being the top goalscorer in Spain and is firmly in the running for next season's Ballon d'Or.
Mourinho is complimentary toward Hazard, a man who has worked extremely hard to improve his game since moving to Stamford Bridge. "He is not afraid to take responsibility," he added, before stating the Belgian "has all the conditions to improve" and is already the "best player in England."
Hazard added all-round quality to his game last term. While always able to skip beyond an opponent and deliver a goal or assist, he's now far more likely to track back and assert his dominance in his own half. Mourinho's best teams have played as a complete unit over the years, and two years into his second spell in west London he's combined flair with discipline to create another successful side.
Mourinho also reacted to comments from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who suggested the Gunners' rivals are trying to buy their way to the title.
Wenger previously told the Telegraph (h/t Alex Young of Goal.com) that it has been "impossible" for Arsenal to win the division when their rivals have continued to spend while they've lost their big-time players. Mourinho told his counterpart to do the maths, per Draper:
This is the easiest thing to do – I don’t do it. Get a calculator. That is the easiest things, it leaves no space for speculation. If you want to be honest, objective and pragmatic it is the easiest job for a manager or journalist to do. If a manager is interested he can do it. I am not. But Diego Costa plus, (Cesc) Fabregas plus (Asmir) Begovic; (Morgan) Schneiderlin plus; Alexis Sanchez plus this one; (Christian) Benteke plus (Mario) Balotelli plus this one. It is easy and objective.
Incidentally, Arsenal's only major signing of the summer so far is goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea.
The two managers square off in Aug. 2's Community Shield fixture, an enticing encounter that should whet the appetite for the return of the Premier League. Arsenal have become cup specialists over the last two years—quality enough to beat anyone on their day, but not consistent enough to win the league—so will put up a stern test.
Mourinho heads into the season knowing his squad are favourites to reclaim league honours. They are the No. 1 targets, the side every other club will try to raise their game against. No team has retained the Premier League title since Manchester United in 2009, so the Blues have a steep challenge to overcome.
With players such as Hazard in tow, Mourinho should be as confident as ever. If things aren't going well when January arrives, he can always goad Wenger a little more by strengthening his squad with some winter signings.