By Shikharr Chandra
Jose Mourinho is known to get the best out of his players. During his first stint with Chelsea, he identified Frank Lampard as the player he would be setting his squad around. The England international excelled under the former Porto manager in his role as an attacking midfielder and the club won back-to-back Premier League titles.
When Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge, it was an opportunity for players at the club to showcase their talent to one of the finest managers.
Chelsea's depth in attacking midfield is no secret. The current crop of creative midfielders are good enough to start regularly for most of the big European clubs and it was always going to be difficult for Mourinho to select the best from the lot.
Leaving behind anyone of those midfielders would have led to questions being raised and that has been the case with Mourinho's decision to keep the two-time Chelsea Player of the Year, Juan Mata on the bench.
'He's a mystical coach, who is always being talked about, it will be a pleasure to have a coach like him, especially as everybody says it will be a very good thing for me.- Hazard on Mourinho
Over the years, many players have credited Mourinho for the kind of impact he has had on them. Wesley Sneijder at Inter Milan, Mesut Ozil at Real Madrid, Didier Drogba and Joe Cole at Chelsea along with the aforementioned Lampard have all relished the opportunity of playing under the 'Special One' and have played arguably their finest football under the Portuguese.
To put it simply, Hazard on more than one occasion has been the star for the Pensioners. The Belgian has at times been unplayable and the improvement in his overall game play is evident. His goal in the weekend against Hull was his ninth of the campaign equaling his tally from last season.
The Belgian has also recorded five assists this term and has created 50 goal scoring chances for his team mates and also has completed 76 dribbles more than any other player in the Premier League. It’s fair to state that he has been the best Chelsea player this season by a distance.
Hazard took time to adjust to Mourinho's ways. The Portuguese prefers a disciplined side with each of his players supporting the defense when needed, something Hazard wasn’t used to. However the Belgian has not let that affect his game.
Despite his diminutive size, he is ever present when defending corners, tracks back to stop the runs of the opposition attackers and puts in key challenges.
Despite the depth in the creative midfield, Chelsea have lacked the ability to carve out chances and that is where Hazard has shown what he is capable of doing.
The game against Hull at the KC Stadium was a prime example of how important Hazard is to this Chelsea side. He took the ball from Ashley Cole, skipped past two defenders and with a sudden burst of pace, cut inside with a sudden feint to fool Alex Bruce and smashed a low drive past the goal keeper. It was a moment of magic from the former Lille player.
Hazard has been Chelsea's go-to man this season. Trailing against Liverpool at home, he put the Blues back on level terms with a sumptuous finish past Simon Mignolet, his penalty in the final minute against West Brom at home to earn a point for Chelsea and keep Mourinho's impressive home record going, his one-man show against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light are all examples of how well Hazard has played under Chelsea's new boss.
"I don't ever remember a player playing against a side I have managed as well as he did - no matter what we did we couldn't cope with him. It's as good as a performance as I've seen from anyone all season. We tried everything - we man-marked him, we put two up against him, three, tried other tactics but there was nothing we could do."- Gus Poyet on Hazard
Hazard has improved a lot not just on the field but off it too. "He has improved a lot in every aspect, he was known as one of the worst trainers. Now he has become - I don't say one of the best - but a good professional in training".
With Mata dropping to the bench and Oscar used in the more pressing role from the midfield, Hazard has taken over the mantle as the chief creator for the Blues.
Hazard certainly has the talent and in Mourinho, the Belgian has the right coach to mould him into one of world football's finest players.