Conte challenges Hazard to match Ronaldo and Messi's 'sacred fire'

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte insists Eden Hazard must show he has the hunger to reach the levels of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Madrid superstar Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or for the fifth time in his career on Thursday, bringing him level with Barcelona superstar Messi.

The duo's annexing of football's major individual prize over the past decade is unprecedented, with Hazard one of the chasing pack in contention to begin a new era when their dominance finally fades.

Nevertheless, Conte insists the 26-year-old Belgium international must make sure a "sacred fire" rages within him to reach the top of the game, having come in 19th in the voting this time around.

"In these players, Ronaldo or Messi and the same with Neymar, you see a hunger in every moment," he said ahead of Saturday's London derby against West Ham.

"Score one goal they want to score the second, score second want to score the third. They are very hungry and for that reason they are special. They want to win.

"It is not important if last season Ronaldo won. Now, if you ask him or Messi, they are going to play another World Cup with the same hunger because they have hunger. They want to win, win, win and continue.

"The past is not important for these players. For these reasons, I repeat, I have a great, great respect for these players because to stay at that level you have to work very hard, it is tough.

"Eden is an important player for us and during games he can make the difference for us. This is important. But, at the same time, I am his coach and I try to push him. "

But in order to reach such a rarefied level, Conte suggested there is only so much he can do for Hazard.

"I like to call it a 'sacred fire', when you have it inside you, the will to win every game and to score goals," he said. "Every one of us, we have this sacred fire and we have to find the right solution to improve it.

"Then the flame can be big or little. When you have an inferno it means you are like Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar.

"Eden has right characteristics to try to fight with these giants. He has the characteristics, so then he has to try to do this and to improve his position in this table in the next year.

"He has the potential to do this but it is not simple to [take] this chance."

Next on the agenda for Hazard and Chelsea is a short trip to London Stadium to face David Moyes' struggling side.

A pair of derby showdowns in the north west dominate the top-flight agenda this weekend, with the top-of-the-table clash between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday following Liverpool versus Everton at Anfield.

Conte pondered whether the comparative glut of London derbies makes it harder for clubs from the capital to win the Premier League, as his men did last time around.

"I think the derby is always a different type of game, it's always a special game," he added. "If you are a team and you are in London you must be prepared to play a lot of special games.

"For sure it is different, this type of game. In Italy if you are in Turin and there is only one derby, in Milan the same, in Rome. In Manchester only one game.

"Here you must be ready to face many teams and I think also for our fans this is a special game."

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