Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/
  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/


The Rise Of Hazard: How A Champions League Win Altered History

Little did we know during Chelsea’s heroic 2012 Champions League winning campaign how much one single trophy could do for the future of a football club.

The biggest prize in European football held particular importance to the Blues that season due to their surprisingly poor 6th placed finish in the Premier League, meaning this victory would secure a Champions League spot for the following season at the expense of bitter rivals Tottenham. Now let’s make no mistake about it, with the riches of Abramovich and the lure of London, there is little doubt Chelsea would have been back in the big time without much fuss, however what they might not have secured would have been the services of a certain Eden Hazard that very summer.

At the age of 21 in the summer of 2012, Hazard had the world at his feet, lighting up Ligue 1 with an unfancied Lille side, having just won his second successive Ligue 1 Player of the Year Award, after previously winning the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year Award for successive years before that. He had his choice of suitors, with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and plenty more top clubs around Europe all itching to have him grace their turf for Hazard, though, there was only one choice: "the Champions League winner." The rest is now history.

Eden Hazard and Jose Mourinho sharing a joke

A match made in heaven. Photo: @Squawka | Twitter

In his seven full seasons as a professional across two top flight leagues, Hazard has been named in his league’s respective Team of the Year six times (the last six years in a row) and has won six individual awards, the last of which came only a month ago when his fellow peers voted him the PFA Player’s Player of the Year after an exemplary season for the Champions. In the same summer in which Hazard chose Chelsea, their main title rival’s most expensive midfield purchases were Shinji Kagawa, Joe Allen, Javi Garcia and Santi Cazorla; with all, barring Cazorla, looking like pretty dire expenditures at the time of writing and ultimately showing how big this coup was for the Blues.

The Belgian first joined Lille in 2005 as a 14-year old, looking to gain from the improved facilities in France – and gain he certainly did. In 2007 he signed a professional contract with the club and soon broke into the senior squad in the latter part of the season with some of the regulars away on International duty. From then on, he was a mainstay in the side with his goal tally increasing every passing year, culminating in a 22 goal season prior to his move to England. Hazard has only improved as a footballer in the last three seasons, with this most recent campaign elevating him into the upper echelons of the sport, in that bracket of superstar just below the mesmeric levels of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Jose Mourinho has gone as far to say that he’s “the best young footballer in the world” and it would be hard to disagree given some of his performances for the Portuguese manager in the past couple of years.

He has come far to eradicate his inconsistent tendencies since moving to Stamford Bridge. He has always been a highly skillful player, however, much of his early period was littered with flashes of brilliance, followed by moments of disappointment. In the past season and a half or so he has been Chelsea’s best player on a regular basis, proving pivotal for them this season when Diego Costa missed a large chunk of their title run-in, scoring vital goals against Hull and Stoke, before a brilliant solo goal to win the game against Manchester United and the winning goal in their title clinching encounter against Crystal Palace.

Eden Hazard's magic moments.

Playing primarily on the left side of an attacking front three behind the striker, Hazard is given the freedom to roam and cut in regularly on his right foot. He has also worked remarkably on his tracking back, a skill that is required of any attacking player in a Jose Mourinho team, as Juan Mata found to his detriment. His close control and dribbling are some of his best talents and there is rarely a game where he doesn’t cause havoc on that side of the pitch for the opposition. He ended this season with 14 goals and 10 assists, to go along with the 23 goals and 26 assists he racked up in the two seasons prior to this, a fantastic return for Chelsea’s investment three summers ago.

Testament to his character off the pitch, despite his obvious talent, he is rarely heard of in the media. Similar to Paul Scholes in this manner, he keeps his head down. When he signed a new contract for Chelsea earlier this year, ensuring he stays at the club until 2020, the Belgian didn’t even bring an agent along to the negotiations; a far cry from the world of Raheem Sterling and co whose interests are being influenced by money-hungry representatives. Hazard has two children and is happily married, which probably adds to his sense of loyalty as they are content living in the cosmopolitan capital of England, a disappointment to his admirers such as PSG and Real Madrid.

Perhaps the only blemish on his record would be that moment of madness in the League Cup in his first season at Chelsea when he effectively kicked through the back of a time-wasting ball boy to try and get the ball back into play as quickly as possible. Without trying to excuse him, I would write this off as a young player desperate to make an impact in his first season at a big club, something which he was very apologetic for after and has never even remotely been close to doing again. In simple terms, you won’t find many around the footballing world who will have a bad word to say about the Chelsea star.

A rare moment of madness from Eden.

The only question left to answer is how far can he really go? Could he ever realistically reach the levels that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been at for close to a decade now? The truth is it would be extremely hard for him to ever be considered in this bracket, but this shouldn’t be a slant on his ability as a player,the fact of the matter is Messi and Ronaldo will be widely considered as two of the greatest that have ever lived. However, Hazard is well on his way to reaching that next tier, alongside the likes of Gareth Bale, Neymar and Luis Suarez. The next step would surely be lighting up the Champions League stage, one which Chelsea haven’t exactly excelled on since their victory in 2012. Euro 2016 will also be huge for a “Golden Generation” of Belgian players who are now reaching their prime, the likes of Thiabaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Christian Benteke and Hazard himself. If he can guide Belgium far next summer, he will certainly give his reputation in world football a huge boost. One thing’s for sure, Jose Mourinho has one of the finest talents in world football and the current best player in the Premier League on his books, and the future of the Blues looks to be in safe hands as long as this remains to be the case.

The future’s bright for Hazard.

Next stop: Champions League. Photo: @NBCSports | Twitter

Videos you might like