Spanish and Barcelona legend Carles Puyol has stated that Chelsea star Eden Hazard is not yet at the level of both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Puyol made the observation at the Laureus Sports Awards on Tuesday while previewing Wednesday’s Champions League round of 16 second-leg clash between Barcelona and Chelsea at Camp Nou.
Hazard will faceoff against Messi when Chelsea take on Barcelona for a spot in the last eight.
The first-leg at Stamford Bridge ended 1-1 with Messi cancelling out Willian’s opener for the Blues.
“I don’t think he’s at their level yet,” Puyol, who was in the Barcelona side that lost 3-2 on aggregate to Chelsea in the semi-final in 2012, said.
“We are talking about incredible players. It’s not just one season, they have been at the maximum level for 10 years now.
“For me, Messi is the best player in the world and in history. It’s impressive what he’s doing every year at an exceptionally high level, breaking records, getting better and better in more aspects of his game.
“So to compare him (Hazard) with Messi or Ronaldo is difficult, but Eden Hazard is a fantastic player. He’s a player who makes the difference and has plenty of time to grow.”
Puyol tipped Barcelona as favourites in Wednesday’s tie but warned his former team to watchout for Chelsea breaks.
“After the first leg, I think Barcelona are the favourites but you can’t be sure. Chelsea have shown that they are a very organised team with clear ideas about how they want to play and have players up front who are very dangerous and very quick.
“They can hurt you a lot on the counter-attack, so Barcelona will have to put in a serious performance and try to score a goal because if they don’t Chelsea could hurt them on the counter.”
And on the possibilty of what happened in 2012 repeating itself, the three-time UEFA Champions League winner said:”The difference is that we lost 1-0 in London so we had to win. We went out to attack and were 2-0 up, after that they made it 2-1. We did all we could to score another goal but Fernando [Torres] scored the second on the counter-attack and eliminated us.
“Now, I think Chelsea will play a similar game: very strong in defence and look for counter-attacks. For Barcelona, the advantage they have is that with the 1-1 draw they will go through with a 0-0.”