Thorgan Hazard Eden Hazard Belgium Portugal Euro 2020 GFXGetty/Goal

The most improved player in football? How Thorgan Hazard has stepped out of Eden's shadow at Euro 2020

Even amid the euphoria of the greatest moment of his career to date, Thorgan Hazard wanted to pay tribute to his brother.

"For me," the 28-year-old said after Belgium's last-16 win over Portugal on Sunday, "Eden was man of the match: he defended, kept possession and played with opponents."

UEFA disagreed, though, naming Hazard the outstanding player in an absorbing last-16 showdown in Seville.

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It was his goal, after all, that had decided the game – and what a goal it was, with the Borussia Dortmund attacker beating Rui Patricio with a stunning, swerving strike from distance just three minutes before the break.

This was a rare moment in the spotlight for Hazard. Like his younger brother Kylian, Thorgan's achievements within the professional game have long been eclipsed by those of their superstar sibling Eden.

Against Portugal, Thorgan stepped out of his shadow in spectacular fashion. For once, the it was his face that was plastered all over the local media the day after a Belgium win. And it was Thorgan that everyone back home wanted to talk to.

"If I see all the texts and messages that I got on my phone, then it probably is the most important goal of my career," Hazard enthused.

It's worth remembering, of course, that he's long been a fine footballer in his own right. Dortmund hardly have a reputation for signing duds and when they signed Hazard in 2019 from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Monchengladbach, they paid €25.5 million (£22m/$30m) for his services.

It's proven money well spent. After a positive first season at Signal Iduna Park, Hazard returned from an injury which ruled him out of a significant chunk of the first half of the 2020-21 campaign to help Dortmund win the DFB-Pokal.

Thorgan Hazard Belgium Portugal goal Euro 2020 GFXGetty/Goal

It was the first trophy of Hazard's career, and now he has emerged as a major player for Belgium, despite playing at wing-back, meaning he has more defensive responsibilities than he's used to – in order to give Eden more freedom to attack.

Not that Thorgan has ever had an issue playing second fiddle to his elder brother. Eden's exploits have never been a hindrance – only an inspiration.

"For a long time, Eden has shown me the right path in football and I try to follow him," Thorgan told Goal back in 2017. "I worked really hard in my club to get a chance in the national team with Eden.

"I hope now, as the little brother, I can aim for the same things as well in the national team, so I work hard. I don’t feel the pressure from Eden. It has been like this since I was 14 years old, so it isn’t pressured, it is normal."

Kylian looks up to Eden just as much. He's never felt burdened by following in his footsteps either. Indeed, he was even willing to join Eden at Chelsea in 2017. 

Thorgan, of course, had also been on Chelsea's books for three years but he only played one match in the Under-21s league against Manchester City before leaving on loan and never coming back.

There had been talk of a reunion with Eden at Stamford Bridge as the Blues had agreed a buy-back clause with Monchengladbach, but the mooted return never materialised.

However, Thorgan is now shining alongside his brother for Belgium. Though they usually play in the same position on the left wing, they are different players. And different characters.

Eden, of course, is a famously bad trainer, having long been able to rely on his innate skills to light up games on football's grandest stages – until injuries began to take their toll.

Thorgan Hazard Belgium Euro 2020 GFXGetty/Goal

Indeed, Eden has been beset by fitness problems during his two seasons at Real Madrid and despite returning in time to reclaim his place in Belgium's starting line-up during the group stage of the Euros, there was a disturbing inevitability about the sight of him limping off in the closing stages of the Portugal win.

The Blancos attacker could now miss Friday's monumental quarter-final clash with Italy in Munich. 

Indeed, it arguably came as no surprise that it was Thorgan who bounded beyond his brother to score the winner against Portugal. He has long been driven by the desire to try to emulate Eden's impact in the international arena and now he's doing precisely that.

Thorgan may not have quite the same skillset as his brother but, as far as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez is concerned, there are few more improved players in world football in recent seasons.

"When I arrived in 2016, Thorgan was just outside the squad," the Spaniard told Goal. "But he started to develop this understanding of how to play in different positions. And it's a sign of a player's strength if he can play three different roles in the squad. It is very, very helpful. 

"But he’s now mastering the role of the wing-back. You saw that with the way he defended against Portugal, but also with the quality of the goal he scored from open play.

"I think it shows you that he has probably been the player that has developed the most in the last three years, even if he is not as highlighted as other players in European football."

He's not even the most famous player in his family. But don't be surprised if Thorgan steps out of his brother's shadow again against Italy on Friday night.

As he previously told Goal, "This is the Hazard way: we always try to score and create goals, and do whatever we can to help our team."