John Terry has hailed Eden Hazard as one of the world’s best players after his goalscoring start to the season.
The 25-year-old struggled for form both before and after Jose Mourinho’s December sacking, as Chelsea slumped to a 10th-place finish last term.
He went 27 games without a goal in the Premier League, eventually breaking his duck in April, and was linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge in the summer.
But he stayed put and looked sharp in Antonio Conte’s first game in charge on Monday night, scoring a penalty as the Blues beat West Ham 2-1.
And he earned praise from captain Terry, who told Chelsea’s official website: “He’s up there with the very best in the world for me.
“We relied on him too much last season and he can’t do it all on his own even though he almost does.
“He’s a world-class player and we’re very lucky to have him.”
Diego Costa’s controversial late winner handed Conte victory on his first Premier League match at the Chelsea helm.
James Collins blasted a second-half equaliser for West Ham only for Costa to net the winner a minute from time – when he arguably should not have been on the pitch.
The 27-year-old striker was lucky to escape a second yellow card for a rash lunge on West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, and rubbed salt into the wound by sealing Chelsea’s last-gasp victory.
Terry insisted however that all that matters is the win that builds early momentum under new Italian boss Conte.
“It was very important to get off to a good start,” said Terry.
“The way we started and ended last season wasn’t good enough by our own standards.
“We said before the game that whether we won lost or drew that was the type of fight and commitment we want from everyone.
“We dug in, it was a big London derby and it means a lot to players and supporters.
“It was great for the management to get off to a good start as well.”