Eden Hazard fouled more than Lionel Messi, stats reveal
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 14/03/17 6:00pm
Antonio Conte took offence with Manchester United's physical treatment of Eden Hazard in Chelsea's FA Cup quarter-final victory on Monday - but does the Italian's argument stack up?
The Premier League leaders maintained their bid for a League and FA Cup double with a hard-fought victory over Jose Mourinho's side, sealed by N'Golo Kante's second-half strike.
After the feisty encounter, Conte revealed he feared United's repetitive fouling - which culminated in Ander Herrera's dismissal for two bookable offences in the first period - would result in Hazard sustaining an injury.
After October's 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea, it's understandable why United paid particular attention to Hazard in the opening exchanges.
Clearly, any hopes United had of reaching the semi-finals rested on their ability to stifle his influence, but did they overstep the mark?
Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd: Most-fouled players
Well, the stats from Stamford Bridge show the Belgian was fouled a total six times - making him the most-fouled player on the pitch.
And United have got previous. Of the 20 Premier League clubs they sit second for the average number of fouls committed per game, while Chelsea have committed the joint-fewest per game this term.
Average PL fouls-per-game (16/17)
Since the start of the 2014/15 Premier League season, the stats show United are not the first side to have been overzealous in their treatment of Hazard.
Over the last two-and-a-half-seasons the Belgian has been the most-fouled top-flight player, having been on the receiving end of 258 fouls.
Most-fouled PL players (14/15 onwards)
|Wilfried Zaha||Crystal Palace||210|
|Sadio Mane||So'ton & Liverpool||195|
|Raheem Sterling||Liverpool & Man City||194|
It's an issue United boss Mourinho raised in the wake of guiding Chelsea to their last league title, where he called for referees to protect the forward.
"In the Premier League last season Eden was very lucky not to break a leg," the Portuguese said.
"He could have been injured many, many times. He had some very nasty tackles last year. I would like more protection for him."
There's a similar story whenever Hazard plays in the Europe, with the Belgian picking up the unenviable record of sustaining the most fouls in a Champions League game in 2015.
Hazard has even been fouled more than Lionel Messi this season, 24 times more to be exact, although Messi's Barcelona team-mate Neymar is currently the most-fouled player in Europe's top-five leagues.
Fouls won (Top-five European leagues, 16/17)
You could argue Hazard's low centre of gravity and world-class dribbling ability are equally at fault for the amount of fouls he sustains.
However, when faced with the facts, it would seem Conte's post-match accusations were justified.