For Eden Hazard, the first season at Chelsea was supposed to be difficult, given the Premier League’s immense physical demands and his modest stature at 5’8″. Hazard though announced himself in a respectable way with 13 goals in the season. The next season got him 17 goals plus the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The season after, he scored another 19 and won the PFA player of the Year award. Both seasons he was unanimously voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year.
Three seasons with the West London outfit, and Hazard was a superstar. His dribbling skills were mesmerizing, his ability to outfox defenders with ease was a treat to watch. He could score at will, his pace was amazing and his set-pieces were brilliant.
Indeed, terminologies like ‘the next Messi’ and ‘a future Ballon d’or’ were heard when referring to Hazard. And while Hazard did find himself crashing on the football turf often, courtesy of some aggressive defending, his form took an abruptly similar turn before long.
Playing the 2015-16 season for the defending champions of the Premier League, Hazard lost possession often, and it looked like his heart was not in the game. He tried switching it up but nothing came of it. His tally of just six goals bore a symbiotic relationship to Chelsea’s own decline over the season as they endured a lowly 10th-place finish. Unfortunately for the Belgian, he bore the brunt of the criticism from the media, former players and pundits.
They said he was a ‘flash in the pan’, ‘weakling’ and ‘overrated’. PSG and Real Madrid generously offered to give him an out. West London was not a happy place.
All that was about to change.
The new season brought in a new manager from Italy Antonio Conte and a new formation that did wonders for Chelsea, and indeed, Hazard.
As part of the tip of the unusual 3-4-3, Hazard found all the boost he needed. With his hunger back, he tore apart opposition defenders, looking stronger and sharper. He was free-scoring once more and his passes and first touches were precise and incisive.
Fuelled by his 14 goals so far presently the West Londoners sit pretty atop the league table with a bit of daylight between them and their nearest opponents. He has definitely shut all the doubters and stormed his way back into elite status. Those Messi comparisons and Ballon d’or statements are back in circulation.
A heck of a turnaround indeed for the Belgian wizard!