Antonio Conte “rejects” Cesc Fabregas’s call for Eden Hazard to be more selfish, says the BBC, in one of the more measured reactions to the fact that the Chelsea boss said seemingly the exact opposite of what Fabregas had said not much earlier when asked about the not-quite-Messiesque brilliance of his current teammate.
“Eden can be whatever he wants to be. Ability wise, there is only one player above him and we all know who he is: Messi.”
“Sometimes when we have a counter attack and it's two against two and he passes the ball, I tell him, 'You have the capability to score by yourself. Do it'. He has to do it more often. I've told him many, many times, he needs to be selfish sometimes and have that killer instinct to score more goals. I hope — and I'm sure — he will improve in the future. And then he will be unstoppable."
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Sky
Cesc of course was talking about Hazard needing to shoot more and to have more of a killer instinct — not exactly a new or shocking idea and one that Conte himself alluded to the beginning of the season as well — in order to raise his game to the next level, to that of the Messis and Cristiano Ronaldos of the world. Whether Hazard actually needs to do this or not could be up for debate (always improve, right?), but when Cesc said selfish he didn’t mean it as Hazard should never pass and should only work for his own personal glory rather than the team’s. If there’s one player who embodies the team ethos this season it’s none other than Fabregas himself, who has accepted his role as a game-changer off the bench after two seasons of being an undisputed started under Mourinho. Cesc has been a model professional all season. It’s highly unlikely that he would espouse truly selfish qualities for a teammate, after proving to be magnanimous and committed in his approach to life under Conte.
When asked at his press conference about this on Friday, Conte at first did not understand the question.
Q: Cesc Fabregas said that in his opinion Eden Hazard — the only player better than him at the moment is Lionel Messi and he could be that good if he was more selfish, if he was more ruthless, shot more rather than pass. Would you agree with that?
A: “I didn't understand.”
Conte’s English is improving, but given a jumbled up question like that, it’s no surprise that he couldn’t figure out what it meant. The question was thus simplified and easily misunderstood.
Q: Do you think that Eden Hazard could reach the level of Messi if he was more selfish as a player? This is something that Fabregas has said.
A: “No, absolutely not. I don't think a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talents into the team. If you do this and the team enjoys your talent. Because it doesn't exist, the best players in the world without a team. It doesn't exist.”
“For me, it is sad when I hear this that a player must be more selfish to reach the top level. This is very sad because this is not my idea of football. For me, I will never understand this. Never, ever. In my team, I don't want selfish players. I'd prefer to lose a game than have selfish players. I don't want this and I can't accept this. I don't want this for my club. One will I buy a selfish player? Never.”
Fabregas didn’t call Messi a selfish player either. And thus we’re already off and running on the entirely wrong footing.
Conte has preached team-first from day one, so any suggestion that a player should work for something other than the team is likely to be met with similar derision and dismissal. Conte’s not in this for any player’s personal glory. He’s in it to win it, and you’re either on board or you’re out. Hazard’s own team-first attitude fits perfectly in this instance, probably better in fact than it did during the Mourinho years when Hazard even complained about having to do it all by himself before Mourinho called him mentally incapable of sacrificing himself for the team — a blazing (tactics) row!
Regardless of what anyone thinks, in the end, we all want the same thing. Fabregas and Conte and Hazard ... we all want Chelsea to win. We won’t accomplish that if we’re selfish (using the definition of selfish that Conte’s is using), but we might accomplish it a bit easier if Hazard gets a bit more selfish sometimes (using the definition of selfish that Fabregas is using — i.e. shoot more, taken on his man more, don’t shy away from making an impact).