Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack admits he cannot explain how Eden Hazard has bounced back into top form this season, as he warned the Belgian star of the dangers of pushing for a move to Real Madrid this summer.
The Chelsea No.10 came under fire as he failed to make his mark in the Blues’ disastrous defence of the Premier League title last season, with his reported discontent with manager Jose Mourinho blamed for a curious dip in form.
Mourinho’s departure coincided with Hazard’s revival, inspiring Ballack to suggest the balance of power between players and their manager in the dressing room has taken a decisive swing.
“Good players, strong players that a club has paid a lot of money for know what they are worth and the influence they can have,” said Ballack, speaking to Yahoo Sport in an exclusive interview on behalf of BT Sport.
“This is why it’s so important when you spend so much money on a players that you look into their character as well as their talent on the field. You need to know them privately because they can cause problems if they want to.
“If you have one, two or three players causing trouble in a squad, it can ruin the whole atmosphere in the group. Maybe we saw that at Chelsea last season because something was very wrong.
“Of course players are powerful now as they know it is not easy to replace them. The club depends on certain players and that gives them power. This is why it is so difficult for a coach to have authority now.”
Ballack went on to suggest Hazard would be walking away from a power base he may never establish again in his career if he decides to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid, as he argued the power he has with the west London club would not be replicated in the Spanish capital.
“Real Madrid is an attractive option for any player,” states Ballack, who turned down a move to the Spanish giants himself back in 2002. “They have so much history and it is the dream for many players to go there, but Hazard already has so much at Chelsea and he needs to remember this.
“He is in a great city, earning lots of money at a great club that is challenging for the top trophies. More importantly, he is the top man at Chelsea and that will not be the case if he goes to Real Madrid.
“It would be difficult for him in Madrid and not just for football reasons. This is a massive football club with huge expectations and some players have not coped so well with that.
“I am pretty sure that if he moves, he will have a challenge on his hands because he seems to be an bit of an introverted character. He is not a player who talks a lot, who commands a dressing room, so a move to Real Madrid would be a new situation for him. Maybe the conditions he has at Chelsea are perfect for him and he needs to consider this.”
Ahead of BT Sport’s coverage of Chelsea v Manchester City on Wednesday, Ballack also gave us his views on City boss Pep Guardiola, as he edges towards the end of what has been a challenging first season in English football.
There was an expectation that Guardiola’s arrival at City would instantly transform the club into the dominant force in the Premier League, yet Ballack suspects the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach will take ‘many years’ to inject a philosophy into City that may not, ultimately, reap rewards in English football.
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“The style of player he tires to play is not so easy to bring into the Premier League,” adds Ballack. “He tried to bring players in who would help him in his first season, but it has not worked out so well up to now.
“I am sure that there will be a few more changes in the summer as he looks to try and introduce his style, but it is not easy to adapt in England, when every team is fighting so hard. This is not the way it is in Germany or Spain, where Guardiola won so many trophies as a coach.
“Yet I would not write him off. He is a fighter. He is challenging himself because he wants to play perfect football and that is asking a lot of the player. It needs three or four years before we see his handwriting on this team and he has to hope he is given this much time.”
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