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Sarri comments no skin off carefree Eden Hazard’s nose

Hazard says he “doesn’t care” about Sarri’s comments, but what does that mean?

Eden Hazard launched a thousand sensational headlines with an off-the-cuff response to a softball question from Sky Sports’ post-match reporter after Chelsea’s semifinal victory over Spurs last night.

Quizzed whether he felt in any way “inspired” by Maurizio Sarri’s rant after the Arsenal defeat and the specific public challenge he issued for Chelsea’s biggest star — to do more, to respect himself, and be more of a leader — Hazard laughed a typical hearty Hazard laugh and uttered the words that we’ll undoubtedly hear over and over in the upcoming months, especially if he does decide to leave for Real Madrid eventually.

“To be fair, I don’t care. I just play my football, it doesn’t matter what the manager said. I just focus on this team and I always want to do the best for this team, today I did and I’m just happy.”

-Eden Hazard; source: Sky

That’s not exactly a completely professional response, at least at the start, but the words he happened to think of at that moment probably make it sound a lot worse than he actually meant.

Does it mean that Hazard doesn’t care about anything Sarri says? Probably not. He just doesn’t care about what Sarri says in press conferences, good or bad. Hazard’s responses to these sorts of questions about his individual accomplishments and motivations are almost always to talk about the team, and that’s the script he follows here, too. It’s just a bit unfortunate that “I don’t care” has so much negative connotation attached to it in the English language.

We’re also not privy at all to what’s said behind the scenes, whether in training or in confidence between player and manager. It was undoubtedly a week of heightened emotion at Cobham after last weekend’s debacle, but the players all responded excellently against Spurs, and at the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for.

And as far as the long-term picture is concerned with Eden, that remains the same as it has been since the summer. The Real Madrid move may or may not happen, but whether it does, it probably will have very little to do with Sarri’s post-Arsenal comments. Hazard was back in his preferred position against Spurs, and is likely to stay there now that Gonzalo Higuain is here for the rest of the season. Eden has spoken previously of his happiness with Sarri and Sarri’s style, and that should only improve if Chelsea keep winning and maybe add a trophy or two — including hopefully against Manchester City in the League Cup final in a month from now.

“It’s always hard. [Manchester City] are the best team with Liverpool in the Premier League at the moment. They’ve won a lot of trophies but we also have a lot of great players, so it’s a 50-50 game.”

-Eden Hazard; source: Goal

In a more negative reading of this incident, Hazard’s response does underline the idea that he’s hard to motivate and, to a certain extent, may be uncoachable — he’s an “individual” player out there to have a bit of fun with his buddies — but if he plays like he did against Spurs more often, few will care too much, including Sarri himself. Just about every team can afford to carry the one mad genius, and as along as he keeps delivering the goods, we can continue to build teams around him.

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