Eden Hazard had no fear about becoming a target for English football’s hatchet men following his dream Barclays Premier League debut for Chelsea.
Hazard made a stunning start to life in England’s top division yesterday with two assists in the first seven minutes of the European champions’ 2-0 win at Wigan.
The Latics immediately resorted to desperate measures to stop the £32m (€40m) man, with captain Gary Caldwell booked for a late challenge on him just four minutes later.
Caldwell’s team-mates soon followed suit and Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo decided 64 minutes of punishment was enough for his new playmaker before substituting him at the DW Stadium.
But Belgium star Hazard shrugged off his treatment afterwards, insisting it was no worse than he had suffered playing for Lille or against Manchester City in last weekend’s Community Shield.
“I already had a taste of these kind of tackles in the Community Shield,” he said.
“I was kicked quite a bit in the first half against Wigan but, in France, it was already like that for me.
“I wasn’t aware I was the most fouled player in the match, I wasn’t counting them.
“At the start of the game, you could see the way I play and the most important thing is I’m not injured.”
Yet Hazard refused to get carried away with his own contribution, pointing out he did not have the same impact after winning the penalty that put Chelsea 2-0 up.
“There are still a lot of things I can do better,” he added.
“I lost a lot of balls in the second half, but I contributed what was asked of me. I was asked to be decisive and I was, with the penalty and an assist.”
Hazard was nevertheless pleased with how he slotted in alongside Juan Mata, with both playing just off Fernando Torres.
“I started as the number 10 and then afterwards with Mata, we tried to interchange positions rather than stay in the same place and I think we worked rather well,” said Hazard, who was withdrawn for fellow big-money new boy Oscar.
“Oscar has just arrived and we haven’t had the time to work together. We have only had one training session so far but, little by little, we should get things to where they should be.
“There are loads of possibilities. Ryan Bertrand was on the left against Wigan and Daniel Sturridge can play there as well and the coach won’t hesitate.
“He will just put the best players on the pitch. Our preparation was very good. Physically speaking, I feel impeccable.”
Chelsea could yet add Wigan’s victor Moses to their array of attacking talent but Branislav Ivanovic declared their squad was already strong enough to challenge on all fronts this season.
Ivanovic, who finished off Hazard’s sliderule pass inside two minutes yesterday, said: “We have enough players and quality to cope with all competitions. With hard work, we can make it.”
He added: “Do the new players excite everyone? Yes, of course.
“You have to have a big and good enough squad and that is what we have.
“The new players are great. During the pre-season, they have shown they have fantastic quality and we have changed a lot as a team because all of them are so creative.
“They have given us the pace we needed. They are great players and every team needs this kind of quality.
“Eden had a great performance against Wigan and is the type of player we needed in the team. Oscar is great too.
“He has a great view of the game. He is young also and we get something special from him in the creativity department.
“If we want to win, we have to be at the top level in every game and win the difficult games.”