Gianfranco Zola singles out ‘incredible’ Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta – but raises Eden Hazard concern
Gianfranco Zola has labelled Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta ‘incredible’ and ‘unbelievable’ – but raised concerns over the fitness of Eden Hazard.
Spain international Azpilicueta has been a stand-out performer for Chelsea this season and is one of the most rated players among the managers in England, according to Zola.
‘He’s been unbelievable,’ Zola said of Azpilicueta. ‘He’s one of the most rated players among the managers. He’s been incredible, not only defending but also going forward.
‘The system suits him perfectly, he’s taking his game to another level.’
Speaking to BBC ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup replay against Championship outfit Norwich City, Premier League legend Alan Shearer added: ‘I think he would get in any team in the Premier League.
‘He’s a regular 8/10 player, he’s very, very good.’
Zola, who scored 59 goals in 229 games during his seven-year spell at Stamford Bridge, also suggested a number of Chelsea stars – including Hazard – are feeling the full effects of a hectic festive period after being held to three straight 0-0 draws.
‘I saw the game the other day against Leicester, who were really good and should have had more than that [a point],’ the Italian legend said.
‘I saw them tired a bit. This doesn’t surprise me because the schedule has been tight. Some of the players – like Eden – were very low in stamina.
‘You could see Eden was trying to do things but it was one of those moments when nothing came alive for him. He was low in physicality, in my opinion.’
Manager Antonio Conte has been repeatedly linked with a return to Italy in the summer, with Chelsea reportedly fearing he will leave at the end of the season.
‘Everyone is missing him with the national team,’ Zola said when asked about the ex-Juventus boss. ‘He has a very good reputation as a coach there, he’s always done well and is highly-rated.’