Chelsea forward and Belgium international Eden Hazard says he is glad to endure kicks from defenders, as Chelsea embark on a new campaign.
The Belgian who was named PFA player of the year last season intends to bulk up to protect himself against the aggressive approach used on him, but will welcome extra protection from referees.
“Sometimes I am in pain after games,” he told The Observer. “I have to take some anti-inflammatories or something like that.
“I like to have the ball at my feet and, when I have the ball at my feet, I get a lot of kicks… but this is football.
“If I don’t work and do the training, the defenders will kill me. It’s my job.
“If the referees can protect me, it would be good for me because they know now that I get a lot of kicks and I want to be protected by the referee. Whenever I feel pain, I try to keep a smile on my face. Always happy.
“Sometimes I get kicked, sometimes not. We have a lot of physios and they work very well because we play every three or four days. It’s important. I am able to stay calm, though. That’s just the way I am. I don’t speak a lot to the players or the defenders. I just want to play, to dribble, to do some skills.
“I never reacted to tackles, even when I was younger. Maybe growing up playing with my brothers helped me. When I was younger, I kept the ball at my feet and my brother tried to catch the ball and, of course, I got a lot of kicks but it became a habit.
“The worst one last season was against Stoke, with Phil Bardsley. When I see the video… it’s crazy. I just play. I always say after the game that, if I’ve had a lot of kicks, the game was good. I don’t care about kicks – I just want to score.”