Conte surprised by Hazard’s Belgium call-up

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Channeling his inner Jose Mourinho, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has expressed his severe dissatisfaction that Eden Hazard has been called up to the Belgian national team despite his ankle injury.

The 26-year-old has not played for Chelsea this season, instead recovering from surgery to repair the broken ankle he suffered during national team training back in early June. He was given a three-month timetable at that early stage.

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“I don’t think he can [play],” said Conte on Friday in his prematch press conference ahead of Chelsea’s game against Everton on Sunday. “If Hazard is ready, why doesn’t he play with us? Why is he playing this afternoon with the U-23s to continue to try and improve his form? I see him every day, and I repeat: in this situation, it’s very important to give the right time to players to recover very well. Hazard is an important player for us. If someone thinks to accelerate the process… I think it’s not the right way. It’s a great mistake.”

“It’s very important to give the right time to recover well. I was a coach of the national team with Italy so I respect the decision of the coach,” Conte said, before telling media he learned of Hazard’s call-up just 20 minutes before the presser.

“If Hazard isn’t ready he will not play, it’s why he doesn’t play with us,” Conte said before saying it would be a “big mistake” to bring Hazard back too quickly.

The Belgian has already been ruled out of Sunday’s match with Everton.

Hazard has missed four straight national team games with injuries, including two due to the ankle injury and two before that because of a calf injury. His last appearance for Belgium came way back in November 2016 when he scored once in an 8-1 drubbing of Estonia.