Antonio Rudiger believes only Lionel Messi is better than Chelsea team-mate Eden Hazard in world football.
Hazard has been Chelsea's star man since arriving from Lille in 2012, but he has failed to challenge dominant duo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or.
However, despite Ronaldo's current monopolisation of the award, Germany's Rudiger ranks Messi as the world's best and claims Hazard is his nearest challenger.
Asked about the task of handling France forward Kylian Mbappe in the Nations League, Rudiger replied: "Mbappe is unbelievably fast, really good. To stop him, you have to do it as a team, because alone ... good luck!
"But for me, the best in the world is Messi, then Hazard."
🔝3️⃣❓@gary_bailey1 says @KMbappe has already passed his teammate @neymarjr as the third-best player in the world and could keep climbing to challenge @Cristiano. 🔥👀😳— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) August 19, 2018
See the full discussion here ➡️ https://t.co/5Bbq2EabR7 pic.twitter.com/XAJQTd6FfP
And the Chelsea defender credits Hazard's strong start to the season and quick recovery from World Cup duty with a key role in Maurizio Sarri's 100 per cent Premier League record after four matches.
"To be honest, I'm surprised how well we've done because players like Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante had big World Cups and came back late for training," he said. "They are in good shape and that's impressive."
Rudiger is enjoying his football, too, preferring Sarri's style to that of predecessor Antonio Conte.
"I played for Roma in Italy, so I knew the way the manager liked to play and it was something I favoured," he said. "He wants us to press high, compared to last season when everyone knows we sat back.
"Now it is different. We create a lot of chances and, for me, that's very good. Mostly, he likes the defenders to play the ball short and keep possession. I have shown so far I can do it but I want to improve every day.
"He is a coach who is not happy, he is always saying you can do better, and that keeps you alive."