Eden Hazard is finally starting to show the one quality that any player most needs to do outstanding talent justice- consistency. After signing for Chelsea at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season from Lille by announcing the move on his Twitter account, and toying with Europe’s biggest clubs in the process including Real Madrid, Inter, Barcelona and the two Manchester clubs and keeping them hanging for what was drawn into a raging transfer speculation, the pressure to perform was going to be on him.
Many thought he would fail to justify the hefty £32 million sum that Chelsea paid for him and live up to the massive hype that surrounded him. And he got right on the job.
After his first three games in the Premier League against Wigan Athletic, Newcastle and Reading respectively, Hazard had a part in each of those wins as he had six assists and a goal to show. In the process, Hazard became the first player in Premier League history to win three man-of-the-match awards in his first three games.
The League and fans all around the world were raving about this sensation. His explosive pace, fantastic technical ability and exceptional finishing earned him comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, something that was notable in itself. He was a player that was a joy to watch, standing for the very thing that characterized pure attacking football. He showed willingness to run at defenders and the ability to beat a man with his dribbling, pace and trickery. Hazard had shown ample signs of it all. And he had the skill to finish and score too. He was the complete package, but the only question, which is also the biggest, is whether he would do justice to it.
The battle of justification
However after that fantastic start to life in the Premier League, the Belgian started to find the going a little harder and hit a few patches of poor form. He was never dismal or a complete failure in any game, though by his lofty standards he was indeed struggling. After recording one goal and six assists in the month of August, Hazard managed four goals and eight assists in 28 appearances over the next four months for club and country.
Chelsea suffered a slump after their great start in the league and Hazard didn’t do much better. There was turmoil at Stamford Bridge after club legend and manager Roberto Di Matteo’s dismissal from the club and subsequent exit from the Champions League, while they became the first holders of the trophy to be eliminated in the group stages the following year.
Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was appointed in November as interim manager amid protests and voices of disapproval from the supporters. The situation at the club did not help the mentality of the players and affected their performances causing the club to lose ground in the league and get knocked out of the Club World Cup where they were among the favourites. Thing’s at that point didn’t look too well for Hazard who had joined the club with the prime ambition of winning trophies. His decision to join Chelsea was based primarily on the fact that they were the Champions League Winners.
Despite things not going too well for Chelsea, there was a shining light. The trio of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard combined well together and were capable of creating opportunities galore for the team. The creative trio, popularly known as MAZACAR, formed the heart of Chelsea’s midfield and made them a danger to every opposing defense. Oscar is the youngest of them all and has been making inroads into the first team while Mata has been a regular. The Spaniard has consistently performed through the months and amassed 13 goals and 15 assists till the turn of the year for club and country while his other team mates including Hazard were in a bit of a slump.
On the road towards revival
January 2013 would have been a great month for Hazard as he managed two goals in four appearances for the club but for the fact that he got sent off and banned for kicking a ball-boy while trying to retrieve the ball in the Capital-One Cup semi-final against Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City.
But from February 2013, Hazard was back with a bang and suddenly one could see the same player who had set the Premier League and Europe alight with his displays. In four appearances in February, he scored two and assisted as many. This included a substitute appearance against Sparta Prague where he came on and scored in added time which sent Chelsea through into the quarterfinals of the Europa League.
A few days later he came off the bench again to assist Ramires in the FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United to salvage a draw and force a replay. He continued becoming more imperious and dominating as March progressed giving an assist to Frank Lampard for his 200th goal and then scoring a beautiful goal against West Ham, a game where he also won the man of the match award. He then scored in two consecutive World Cup qualifier games against Macedonia, helping Belgium win both games and putting them top of their group. In 15 appearances so far in 2013, Hazard has given four assists and scored seven, which makes for a fantastic statistic.
The future is indeed bright for this young lad. As Lampard recently said, “Hazard has the world at his feet”. Zinedine Zidane had mentioned before that he would sign him for Madrid with his eyes closed if given the choice.
Chelsea need him more than ever in their push for the top-four in the league and desire to end the season with a trophy. Hazard is brilliant and some may say arrogant too. But if he continues to work hard and develop his game, the future can only get brighter. And the fact that he is only 22, he is only going to get better.
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