Eden Hazard believes he showed he is a leader for Chelsea in their Carabao Cup win over Tottenham, after Maurizio Sarri questioned his ability to perform such a role for the team.
Sarri said Hazard was “not a leader” ahead of the match, suggesting he is more of an individual in the aftermath of a 2-0 Premier League at Arsenal.
Hazard’s response was to score the winner against Tottenham, with the 2-1 victory on the night forcing penalties. Chelsea won the shootout 4-2 to set up a final with Manchester City.
Sarri singled the Belgium international out for praise afterwards, describing his display as “wonderful” and attributing it to a change in mentality.
Asked if Chelsea delivered the kind of performance his head coach would be happy with, Hazard said: “I hope so.
“[In] the meeting we had before the game, we talked about going through and playing in the final. Now we are in the final so we are just happy.
“My job on the pitch is to do what I can do. Today I did so I am just happy. I always say that on the pitch I’m a leader. I think I’m a leader.”
Hazard’s comments came after an earlier Sky Sports interview alongside David Luiz, in which he had played down the impact of Sarri’s criticism.
“To be fair, I don’t care,” Hazard told Sky Sports. “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.”
Hazard had been in line to take Chelsea’s fifth penalty in the shootout but the successful conversion of the first four meant he did not need to step forward.
They now face City in the final on February 24 – live on Sky Sports – and Hazard knows it will be a tough encounter.
He added: “It’s always hard [against Man City]. With Liverpool, I think they are the best team in the Premier League at the moment.
“They win a lot of trophies in the last five or six years, but we also have a great team so I think it is a 50-50 game.”