Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley believes team-mate Eden Hazard is currently ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.
Hazard scored a superb late winner in the Blues’ 2-1 Carabao Cup third-round victory at Liverpool on Wednesday, firing an emphatic shot past Simon Mignolet at the end of a brilliant run into the box.
The Belgium forward has also netted five times in Chelsea’s opening six Premier League games, of which they have won five and drawn the other.
After Wednesday’s match he was described by Chelsea assistant boss Gianfranco Zola as one of the best players in the world, while the club’s former captain John Terry went a step further, saying in an Instagram post that Hazard is number one on that front.
And when Barkley was asked about Hazard, he said: “He is establishing himself in the top three players in the world now, and at the minute, he’s probably the best player in the world.
“He is producing things like that on the pitch – it’s fantastic.”
When then asked about Messi and Ronaldo, Barkley added: “They are probably a lot more selfish than Eden is.
“He is not a selfish player. He is happy with getting two assists and the team winning. But he is adding goals and he keeps improving.
“What he produced against Liverpool, he’s doing that every day in training, so it’s no surprise to us.
“At the minute, he is the best player in the world, I believe.”
Chelsea’s come-from-behind victory saw Emerson Palmieri, following up when Barkley’s header was parried by Simon Mignolet, score in the 79th minute to cancel out Daniel Sturridge’s opener, and Hazard then struck six minutes later.
Both Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea counterpart Maurizio Sarri made eight changes to their starting line-ups ahead of the clubs meeting again in Saturday’s league clash at Stamford Bridge.
One of the adjustments for the Reds, who had gone into Wednesday’s game with their winning start to the season having reached seven matches in all competitions, was Mignolet coming in for Alisson Becker for his first appearance since January.
Mignolet said: “Because it was that long a time and long a period, it was a bit strange to be out there again.
“But I think I tried to do my job the best I could, and I can’t be too disappointed (with) the way I played.
“So that felt good to be on the pitch and to make sure I’m ready if something happens, because not having played so long you never know.
“At the same time, if you go out of the competition – which was a chance for me to play every time – it makes the chances of playing small again and that’s not what you want.”
When asked if he thought it was realistic that he could challenge to be Liverpool’s number one in the future, Mignolet said: “I don’t really think about that in those terms.
“I know, of course, we’ve signed a new goalkeeper (Alisson was recruited over the summer). It doesn’t really change (things) for me.
“The only thing I can do is try to be ready for when the gaffer needs me.”
Prior to the match, Klopp had said Mignolet had been “brilliant” after a move away from the club did not materialise for him in the last transfer window.
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