Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte says N’Golo Kante would be his choice to win the Ballon d’Or but admits Eden Hazard is the Chelsea player most likely to claim the award.
Cristiano Ronaldo won the 2017 prize in Paris on Thursday to equal Lionel Messi’s record of five Ballon d’Or awards.
France midfielder Kante finished eighth in the voting with Belgium playmaker Hazard 19th and Conte believes Kante is destined to always miss out.
He said: “Honestly I don’t know if N’Golo Kante can win the Ballon d’Or in his life because of the characteristics of this player.
“(But) for me, he is the Ballon d’Or. For a coach, Kante has to win, for every coach.”
Conte believes Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar have an inner desire to keep winning, a “sacred fire” and he reckons Hazard is the only Chelsea player who can challenge them for the right to be the world’s best by nurturing this “flame”.
“Eden has the right characteristics to try to fight with these giants,” Conte added. “He has to try to do this. And to improve his position in this table in the next year.
“When you see these players you see a hunger in every moment. For this reason, these players are special.
“I like to call it a sacred fire, when you have it inside you, the desire, the will to win every game, to score goals. Every one of us, we have this sacred fire and we have to find the right solution to improve it.
“The flame can be big or little. When you have an inferno it means you are like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar.”
Conte’s immediate concern is Saturday’s trip to West Ham live on Sky Sports.
The Italian believes so many London derbies makes it tougher for the capital’s clubs.
“In this league, every game is very tough, but to play during a season eight to 10 derbies is not simple,” said Conte. “I think it’s more difficult.”