Eden Hazard: Chelsea superstar could be on his way to Real Madrid, but what is his legacy at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea star Eden Hazard underlined his brilliance against West Ham on Monday night when he netted both goals in a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Those goals sent the Blues back into the Champions League places and the opener from the Belgian was one of his, and the Premier League’s, best ever individual efforts.
The future of Hazard remains unclear however, with Real Madrid lurking in the shadows hoping to convince the player he is better of playing for them under the guidance of his hero, Zinedine Zidane.
So, if Hazard does leave in the summer, what will his legacy have been at Chelsea after seven years with the club?
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In his post match interview, Hazard stood with his arms folded, shrugged his shoulders in an unassuming manner and answered each question with nonchalant honesty. While the standard monologue is littered with cliches and repetitive phrases from a sniffling, sweaty footballer, still trying to get their breath back, the Belgian is rarely evasive, the complete opposite to how he is on the pitch.
No doubt West Ham would have seen it before, training probably consisted of drills specifically designed to halt Hazard, Mark Noble issuing a last-minute warning to his defence to stay tight, don’t give him any space.
But whether they had watched him, prepared for him, spoke about him, there is very little any team can do to thwart Hazard when he is in the mood and Monday night was the perfect example. Those short, quick strides, low centre of gravity, a forward thrust so hard to interrupt, finished with a goal.
And for much of his Chelsea career, Hazard has been in the mood, but when he is not, the inconsistency is prolonged, he once went 11 months without a Premier League goal between 2015 and 2016, the only season he failed to reach double figures in all competitions.
For much of his time at Stamford Bridge, Hazard has frequently been compared to two greats of the modern generation; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both have been at the top of their game for well over a decade and both are capable of swinging the pendulum back in the favour of their side, as they have shown on numerous occasions.
So to can Hazard, of course there can be no doubting that, his brilliance has helped win two league titles and other domestic honours, since he joined the club in 2012, along with a number of personal accolades – he was Player of the Year in 2015 and finished in the top 10 twice for the Ballon d’Or.
Complex relationships with Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte did not get in the way of his significant contribution to Chelsea’s league triumphs, but in both the seasons that followed, the question, perhaps unfairly asked of their talisman is could he have done more?
This season, Hazard continues to set the standards at both Chelsea and the Premier League, his goal involvement of 28 is more than any other player in the top-flight, while his 19 goals have matched his previous personal best. Hazard has never had much trouble expressing himself, but this campaign has perhaps been his most consistent, now 28, he is in the midst of his peak years.
Such is his importance, that when has plays poorly, his team-mates are likely to do the same.
“It will be as big a loss to a team as Thierry Henry was when he left to go to Barcelona,” Tony Cascarino told talkSPORT.
“He [Hazard] is up there with the very best. If he gets you from a standing start and he stops, you’re in trouble. There aren’t many players I can say that about.”
The courting from Real Madrid has hardly been subtle, they have never made it a secret when a player takes their interest and Hazard, to his credit, has not lost focus, West Ham fans chanted ‘he’s off to Madrid’ but Hazard dismissed the playful antagonism with a respectful laugh and reiterated his desire to remain with Chelsea.
Deep down, however, the prevailing feeling is that Hazard will follow his heart and move to Spain and Real in the summer, you sense he has gone as far as he can. It is no secret he admires Zidane and his desire to succeed in the Champions League and win a Ballon d’Or are also factors.
While his legacy at Chelsea was not initially obvious, up against the likes of Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba, Hazard has shown he is worthy of being considered a club legend, there is even debate as to whether he could be the club’s best ever player.
However he is remembered, should he decide to head off for pastures new, Chelsea and the Premier League will certainly be a poorer place without Hazard.
Source: SportsLatest TS