Eden Hazard, Enfin
As the skies swirl in monotonous greys around the vast array of worldwide cities, know and trust that a beacon of ostentatious beauty is currently emanating from the capital city of London. The modern times may be shackled in immoral squalor and impetuous foolhardiness, but that only makes the inklings of joy we find in football even more of a triumph. And a “triumph” is how I would go about describing, if accuracy was indeed my true endeavor, the current stylings of a footballer in the richest vein of form: Monsieur Hazard.
Eden Hazard, as we speak, is playing football in much the same manner as Pablo Picasso dabbled with blue paint or Thelonious Monk struck a piano key in a smoky, cramped space on a 1950s East Village street. In short: with an expertise so effortless in nature and yet so outrageously technical and flawless all at the same time. The ball seems magnetized to his foot. The defences seem to be treading in abyssal pits of quicksand. The end product is something you have on numerous occasions dreamt about. Listen, we are witnessing legitimate and profound greatness. As this humbled author scribes this piece, Chelsea’s Belgian playmaker is in his own world ruling, governing and, subsequently, ferociously thriving.
This moment has been in the making for years. And if we are all being honest with ourselves: for far too long. Hazard has been a guest on the precipice of perfection vividly outstaying his welcome. The gates just never proverbially opened. And to be frank — he wasn’t worthy of the keys. We all sat in awe as others of his ilk went on to bathe in glory or to an even greater extent define generations: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the grandest of scales, Antoine Griezmann and Kevin de Bruyne in consistent and trophy laden spurts, and Neymar Jr. and Gareth Bale as bona fide global superstars. These are Eden’s peers. The players he himself and fans compare him to. The next echelon high in the cloudless and eternal sky that just was always too far away. An inexplicably unattainable level inaccessible to Belgium’s brightest spark. Hazard certainly was always capable skill-wise, but oddly incapable of climbing the last remaining rungs allowing him to be spoken about and revered in quite the same capacity as the aforementioned.
And just when it appeared as if all desperate hope was lost and the Eden Hazard parade would in fact never materialize, here…he…comes. And with bloody aplomb to boot.
There isn’t a player on the solar system acquitting himself with more quality and panache than Eden Hazard is right now. The man is tops when you take into context the complexity and sheer difficulty of the league he plays in and the pure excellence of the opposition he faces whenever he laces his boots up and graces the pitch. And at 27 years old (he turns 28 in January) he is certainly later to the kingly scene than normal, but still undoubtedly in his window for the heights of his prime. And it’s not that we should be all that shocked. Hazard has flirted with being super elite. He has been touted as having the potential to cross the threshold. And he has come close but never gotten to the summit. Until now.
In 2014-15, we all as fans became intimately familiar with a talent in Chelsea blue who could in theory manhandle the world. It has been to date the best we have seen from Eden Hazard. He played in all 38 Premier League matches scoring 14 goals. He would add 14 more cup apperances chipping in 5 additional goals to take his totals to a wildly impressive 52 and 19 (his personal bests in England). Hazard was the star as Chelsea won the Premier League title and the League Cup. Individually he would go on to win the Chelsea fans’ Player of the Year, the Chelsea players’ Player of the Year, the football writers’ (FWA) Footballer of the Year, the players’ (PFA) Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Year. This glittering season would lead Hazard to his best ever finish in the Ballon d’Or standings (8th) and the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award (6th). His then manager, José Mourinho, would often highlight Eden’s talent and go out of his way to coach the player to always make a game changing difference in matches like Ronaldo and Messi always do. Mourinho was certain Hazard was on their level but that it was up to the player to cross the final steps himself. And that is what we haven’t seen. Until, as previously stated, now.
This past summer and the emotional rollercoaster/nonstop action thriller that was the World Cup belonged to a handful of players, Eden Hazard being one. He captained Belgium to their best ever finish with a bronze medal and won the Silver Ball as the competition’s second best player. That was the kickstart to this fiery star turn we are currently witnessing. Hazard’s late winner this past September against Liverpool, a team playing some of the best football in the world right now, in the League Cup was yet another jewel in his already ornate crown. The goal contained the attributes that fully encompass Eden’s brilliance: poise, quickness of feet, speed, technique and a finish from a tight angle of such a flabbergastingly delicious caliber. It was fittingly exquisite of the spree the Belgian is on.
And it is quite the spree. Hazard this young season already has 7 goals in just 8 appearances. He is on pace to obliterate his best goal tally at Chelsea (19) and even his best haul of all time (22 for Lille in France’s 2011-12 Ligue 1 season). He has already this year been named in FIFA’s World XI for the first time. Hazard is simply tearing through every obstacle in his path and the world is taking notice. On his day he is unplayable. And if silverware awaits at the end of this season’s slog then we may be in audience of the first player to bring the Ronaldo/Messi decade dynasty of Ballon d’Or trophies to a close. That would signal the beginning of a genuinely new era in a sport that has been dominated for so long by the two best footballers of all time.
There’s nothing else to do but enjoy it. Chelsea fans are in for a delectable treat as this campaign rumbles on. And if you, like me, find yourself at odds with joining in with the thrill of this eminent Hazard run, just know that there is no fault in marveling at phenoms. Sitting at home or in the stands or at the pub watching legitimate illustriousness is a delight you should afford yourself. Especially in these times.