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How brilliant is Chelsea and Belgium’s Eden Hazard?

At 28, Eden Hazard is in his prime with Chelsea. Do we love him? Yes, we do.

What they say
“When I saw Zidane, he played like his feet were hands.  Eden is like that. The ball sticks to his feet. It’s almost impossible to get it off him.”
Marc Wilmots, former Belgium coach

“You almost hope Eden Hazard gets diarrhoea [ahead of a Man. City game v Chelsea]. You can have as many tactical plans as you want, but if Eden starts running it’s chaos. He’s at a level where he decides how good his team are.”
Vincent Kompany, Man. City and Belgium defender

“He is already one of the best. I want to see him go third on the [Ballon d’Or] list one day soon and I think he’ll do it. I think a lot of people, when they see Eden playing, they go: ‘Wow what a player!'”
Thorgan Hazard, Mönchengladbach and Belgium midfielder

“It’s very difficult to compare him with other players. He’s a genius. He’s unique.”
Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea manager

Current tally
International: 98 appearances, 27 goals
UEFA club competition: 76 appearances, 14 goals
Domestic competition: 441 appearances, 137 goals

Hazard (L) after LOSC's 2011 French Cup success

Hazard (L) after LOSC’s 2011 French Cup success©Getty Images

Claims to fame
Lille
• Brought across the border to sign youth terms at Lille in 2005 after being scouted playing for local side Tubize, Hazard made his debut as a substitute at Nancy on 24 November 2007, aged 16.

• The man who lured him to France, LOSC academy head Jean-Michel Vandamme, remembered: “When he signed his first contract, he told me he would be in the first team at 16. I thought: ‘He’s crazy’, but he did it.”

• France’s players’ union made him their young player of the year for 2008/09 – the first foreigner to receive the honour. He became the first back-to-back recipient in 2009/10.

• Zinédine Zidane was a fan early on, saying in 2010: “Eden is skilful and very quick. He will be a major star. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed.”

• Was France’s players’ union player of the year for 2010/11 as Lille landed a domestic double, and retained the honour the next season – only Paris’s Pauleta had won it repeatedly before.

Hazard is back to his best with Chelsea

Hazard is back to his best with Chelsea©Getty Images

Chelsea
• Aged 21, he chose to join Chelsea rather than Manchester United. “For me, Chelsea has the best project,” he explained. “The team is young and I have a better chance to play.”

• Was Chelsea’s 2013/14 top scorer with 14 goals, manager José Mourinho saying he was “probably the best young player in the world”. He earned the the players’ union young player of the season award and came second in the senior vote.

• As Chelsea picked up the 2014/15 championship, Mourinho upgraded him to “one of the top three players in the world”; his peers voted him player of the year. Picked up a second title with the Blues in 2016/17, and a first FA Cup last season, scoring the only goal (a penalty) in the final against United.

Hazard with his armband at UEFA EURO 2016

Hazard with his armband at UEFA EURO 2016©AFP/Getty Images

Belgium
• Likened to another La Louviere-born Belgium great, Enzo Scifo, as he came through the Red Devils youth ranks; he made his first senior outing against Luxembourg aged 17 years and 316 days, becoming Belgium’s eighth-youngest debutant.

• Disappointed at being substituted against Turkey on 3 June 2011, Hazard left the stadium and was caught on camera eating a hamburger outside while his team-mates were still playing.

• Helped Belgium to the 2014 FIFA World Cup (their first in 12 years) and made it to the last eight; then – in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany – skippered the Red Devils as they stalled at the same stage at UEFA EURO 2016. Was captain again at the 2018 World Cup, where Belgium sparkled and picked up the bronze medal.

What you might not know
• Hazard was born the same day – 7 January 1991 – as another notable athlete, South African runner Caster Semenya.

Thierry Hazard at the local pitch where his sons played

Thierry Hazard at the local pitch where his sons played©Getty Images

• The Hazards are a footballing family; sports teacher parents Thierry (La Louvière) and Carine both played (“I was in her stomach when she was playing; she was three months pregnant,” Eden said), as do Eden’s younger brothers Thorgan (Gladbach), Kylian (Chelsea but on loan at Cercle Brugge) and Ethan (Tubize youth). “We could have a great five-a-side team,” Eden joked. “My dad still plays. My mum could be manager.”

• Carine may have been the biggest influence on Eden’s career. “I take after my mum as a player,” he said. “My dad played at the back, chilled out, calm on the ball. My mum was a striker.”

• A training pitch near the family home helped the brothers hone their skills. Eden said: “It was five metres away, the other side of a little fence. It meant we didn’t mess our own lawn up.”

• Cookery helps him relax. “There is nothing I like better than going home and cooking my family a nice meal,” he said. “I have a good repertoire and I can do quite a few different dishes. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. Obviously we are also well known for beer in Belgium. But I’m a footballer, I don’t drink beer.”

Hazard and son in 2014

Hazard and son in 2014©Getty Images

• Has been with his wife Natacha Van Honacker – mother of his sons Yannis, Leo and Samy – since he was 14; he scared Chelsea fans in 2014 when he suggested she might persuade him to join Paris, saying: “If my wife was to say: ‘Honey, I’d like you to go to PSG’, I would have to take it into account.”

Watch Hazard dazzle for Lille

Watch Hazard dazzle for Lille

What he says
“I want to be the best, but it’s not in my head. I just want to enjoy [myself]. If I can be, then I will be the best. If not, it’s not a problem. I just want to play. I don’t want to be like Messi or Ronaldo. I want to be me.”

“The Champions League is the one thing missing from my career. When I look at the history of the competition and the people that have taken part, the top, top players have all won it. For many, it is why they have been regarded as top players.”

“I [play] without fear. I’ve done that since I first kicked a ball in my back garden as a five-year-old, whether it’s been my first game, my 100th game, or my 500th game.”

Jan Ceulemans in 1980

Jan Ceulemans in 1980©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

What he might achieve yet
• Belgium’s caps record (110: Jan Vertonghen) might be his one day (Vertonghen and second-ranked Axel Witsel are still playing, but both are older than Hazard), though he may have said goodbye to the goalscoring record, with Romelu Lukaku (still only 25) already on 45.

• Feature in the final of a major UEFA tournament; Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League in Hazard’s first term but he missed the final with a hamstring injury.

• Win something big with this highly-rated Belgium team. Hazard said: “My ambition is to lead Belgium to the World Cup, to win something for the country.” They came close in 2018; will they come closer at UEFA EURO 2020?

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