Jose Mourinho has criticised Eden Hazard by claiming the playmaker is not yet ready to sacrifice himself fully for the sake of his team. The Belgian, a reported summer target for Paris Saint-Germain, was apparently critical of the Portuguese's tactics during this week's UEFA Champions League semi-final, second-leg defeat by Atletico Madrid, which denied Chelsea a place in the final. Quizzed about his player's comments, Mourinho insisted Hazard's words had been taken out of context.
"There was nothing critical in what he said," the Blues manager told reporters at their training ground in Cobham. "It's the same type of words he said in relation to the Belgium side a few weeks ago."
But Mourinho then highlighted the mistake made by Hazard for Atletico's opening goal - the player was caught out at the far post - as an example of a weakness that remains in the player's game. The error contributed to Adrian Lopez's equaliser, which cancelled out Fernando Torres' opening goal immediately before half-time at Stamford Bridge, laying the platform for the Madrid side to secure victory after the break.
"Normally you get this kind of comment from players like him - from players who can't resolve a problem like we had with the first goal," Mourinho said. "Against Atletico in Madrid, Willian played on the left side and Ashley Cole was protected all game. Against Liverpool, Andre Schuerrle played on the left and a dangerous player like Glen Johnson was completely under control.
"Eden is the kind of player who is not so mentally ready to look back at his left-back and live his life for him. If you see Atletico's first goal, you understand where the mistake was and why we conceded that goal."
Hazard has, for many, been Chelsea's most impressive attacking player this season, but Mourinho has been unhappy with the 23-year-old's defensive contribution.
"I just say the perfect team at the top level cannot make this kind of mistake," he said. "When the comments come from a player like Eden, it's normal. He's not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team and his mates. But at the same time, the comments were not critical. I'm not happy [that a player doesn't sacrifice himself], and I've spoken all season and I've tried to improve him."
Chelsea's exit from the Champions League means the Premier League title remains their last hope of silverware this season, although Mourinho's side are currently rated third-favourites behind leaders Liverpool and Manchester City, who are three points off top spot but with a game in hand on their two rivals. To maintain a realistic chance of clinching the championship, second-placed Chelsea, two points behind Liverpool after their win at Anfield last weekend, must beat relegation-threatened Norwich City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
'Transitional season' satisfies Mourinho
David Luiz insisted after the Atletico defeat it would be an unsuccessful season if Chelsea finished the campaign empty-handed. However, Mourinho disagreed, saying progress had been made in a period of transition.
"I don't think it's a bad season," he said. "I think it's a transitional season and, for a transitional season, to arrive where we did is very good.
"If you tell me that, for two to four years in a row, we don't do more than fight for the title until the last game or don't do more than a Champions League semi-final, I would say we should do better. But, for a transitional season, to fight for the title until the last moment and go to the Champions League semi-final I think is a good step, especially because what you do normally is compare with the season before.
"If you do that, Chelsea lost the title in November last season. Chelsea were many points behind. And in the Champions League Chelsea were the first team to be knocked out in the group phase as champions. So it's been a big step in terms of fighting for the title and for the Champions League. A good step."