Eden Hazard can be best in Europe with improved mentality - Maurizio Sarri

LONDON -- Eden Hazard can become the best player in Europe if he adopts the mentality of an elite goalscorer, according to new Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri.

The Belgian has not broken the 20-goal barrier in any of his six Premier League seasons, with Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte among the former Chelsea head coaches who have claimed he could reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo if he becomes more ruthless in the final third.

Sarri's arrival at Stamford Bridge has raised hopes that Hazard could emulate the transition made by countryman Dries Mertens, who transformed late in his career from a talented winger into a prolific scoring false nine under the Italian at Napoli.

Speaking in a news conference on Friday, Sarri did not reveal whether he intends to deploy Hazard in a more central role this season but he did agree that goals are the biggest area for improvement in the 27-year-old's game.

"It depends on his position on the pitch," Sarri said. "In the last five years, Cristiano [Ronaldo] has played like a striker. [Lionel] Messi like a striker, Eden sometimes like a winger.

"Eden can improve. We are talking about one of the most important players in Europe now but, in my opinion, he can improve more. He can be the first [in Europe]. It depends on him. The best for technical skill, the best for scoring, but I think it depends only on him. On his mind."

Hazard is set to stay at Chelsea for another season after Real Madrid's expected push to sign the winger failed to materialise following his impressive World Cup, and Sarri admitted the uncertainty surrounding the Belgian's future was foremost in his thoughts when he was confirmed as Antonio Conte's replacement in July.

"Of course, I was concerned about this problem," Sarri said. "The first time I spoke to him, I was sure that he would stay. So I was concerned for 20 days, no more."

Asked why he is not concerned about Madrid attempting to sign Hazard before the Spanish transfer window closes at the end of August, Sarri replied: "Chelsea are one of the most important clubs in Europe.

"I think one of the most important clubs in Europe cannot sell an important player without the possibility of buying a player on the same level."

Reports in England have claimed Chelsea could offer Hazard the club captaincy as part of their wider efforts to convince him to sign a new long-term contract at Stamford Bridge, but Sarri is not yet ready to make a final decision on who will assume the permanent responsibility of the armband.

"For the moment the captain [on the pitch] is [Cesar] Azpilicueta," he said. "But I want to know very well my players. In 10 days or a couple of weeks, I will be able to decide the final one."