Di Matteo hails Hazard potential
Chelsea boss says he could be as good as Zola
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey. Last Updated: August 22, 2012 9:00am
Roberto Di Matteo: Confirmed fan of Chelsea new boy Eden Hazard
Roberto Di Matteo admits that Chelsea starlet Eden Hazard has the potential to emulate club legend Gianfranco Zola.
Zola lit up Stamford Bridge during a seven-year spell with the club, and Di Matteo played with his fellow Italian for six of those years.
Now Di Matteo, in charge at Chelsea, can clearly see similar potential in summer signing Hazard.
"It's difficult to compare players. Gianfranco was a wonderful talent, an artist I would say," he said.
"Eden might become an artist as well. After one game, it's probably a bit too early.
"He had a good start, but it's one game out of 38 in the league.
"It certainly gives him and the others confidence, starting with a new club like that. It was a pleasant day for him.
"He's a talented man, a talented young boy. We'll have to see how he grows into a man, and how quickly he will be an important player for Chelsea."
Di Matteo was right to play down comparisons between someone who has made two appearances for Chelsea and a man often voted the club's best player of all time.
"It was great to see him enjoying himself as well, and getting his teeth into the Premier League," he said.
"You're never quite sure how the new players will adapt, and I'm sure it will take him a bit of time to get used to the physicality and tempo of the Premier League.
"It's good he got used to it quickly because that's how it's going to be. He's a strong man, a strong boy. Strongly built as well. It will certainly help him.
"We spoke during pre-season about the Premier League.
"He's a young man but he already has a lot of experience in terms of playing games. He knows how to handle himself."
Di Matteo insisted kicking Hazard was "not the way" to stop him anyway and even warned of the perils of doubling up on the Belgium star.
"It will free up some space for other positions if they double-mark him," he warned.