KINGSTON UPON HULL, United Kingdom - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says that in-form forward Eden Hazard has developed from a "talented kid" into an essential part of his team.
Hazard's opening goal in Saturday's 2-0 success at Hull City took his tally to 11 for the season and he is Chelsea's leading scorer, but Mourinho is equally impressed by the Belgian's work rate and discipline.
Hazard joined Chelsea from French club Lille for £32 million (S$66.63 million) in 2012 and Mourinho believes that the Europa League champions are now seeing the best of the 23-year-old.
"He has been playing very well for a long time," Mourinho said.
"The club made a big investment in him last year (season). To bring a player from France and pay the amount Chelsea did is because Chelsea trust the player a lot.
"He is not anymore a talented kid; he is now more than that. He is a player who feels and accepts the responsibility, feels and accepts that a team player is more than a talented player, and without losing his fantastic ability and fantastic talent.
"The kid is in a very good moment of his career. Three consecutive times he is man of the match, which is something nice. Let's see if the Barclays Premier League decides to give him player of the month.
"The kid is waiting, but the trophy is not arriving."
Hazard provided the vital spark as Chelsea overcame Hull at the KC Stadium to record their fourth consecutive Premier League victory.
Hull looked like they would keep Chelsea at bay until a moment of brilliance from Hazard put the visitors ahead early in the second half and changed the landscape of the match.
Chelsea controlled proceedings thereafter and Fernando Torres sealed victory three minutes from time to crown his 200th league appearance with a goal.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine fixtures in all competitions and Mourinho is pleased with the increased consistency from his team.
"It's good (to be near the top of the league)," said the Portuguese. "It helps players be better and stronger and to grow up faster.
"When you are 20 points behind the leader and you have no pressure in that moment, only the manager has pressure.
"It is another thing to play when you know you are there and if you win you are top of the league; if you lose, you lose a position. It's good. All the players are stable in their performances. They are improving a lot.
"The important thing is we all know we are going in right direction."
Hull manager Steve Bruce was disappointed his Hull team, who were promoted from the Championship last season, had not given a better account of themselves.
Hull beat Liverpool and took a 2-0 lead against Manchester United before slipping to a 3-2 defeat in December matches at the KC Stadium, but they faded against Chelsea after an enterprising start.
"The season is never going to be defined by games against Chelsea, but in the last few months, especially against the big boys, we've played better and kept the ball better," Bruce said.
"Second half, we were nowhere near posing Chelsea a threat. We're disappointed, but it's not going to define our season. Unfortunately, against a top team, we didn't keep the ball well enough.
"If you keep surrendering possession, it's going to be difficult. Hazard was the best player on the pitch and he scored a wonder goal for them.
"After that, it became a very difficult afternoon because you have to go chasing possession. When you take on the big boys, if you keep giving the ball back to them, they're going to punish you and that's what happened."