Bittersweet as a legend leaves.
The day was July 1st 2012, Chelsea were the Champions of Europe and a certain legend at Lille had tweeted that he would be joining the Champions League winners. Eden Hazard joined Chelsea for 31 million pounds after he was chased by the whole of Europe. Hazard had had a brilliant season with Lille having captained them to the Ligue 1 title scoring 22 goals and assisting another 22 during the season.
A fresh faced 21 year old Hazard made his debut in the Community Shield against City which we lost 2-3. I remember seeing him attempt a backheel which did not come off and he fell to the ground and I just thought no problem. Hazard would go on to make 62 appearances that season scoring 13 goals and assisting 24. Hazard and Chelsea would finish 3rd in the table under Benitez’s management and Hazard would win his first trophy with Chelsea, the Europa League.
The return of Mourinho saw Hazard continue on the left as he made 49 appearances while scoring 17 goals and assisting 10. Chelsea would finish 3rd that season and Hazard would not manage any silverware but it was another great season personally as he started to take his place as the main attraction of the Premier League.
The season saw Hazard given the no 10 shirt after Mata left for United and it was a great season for the player. Hazard would make 52 appearances for Chelsea scoring 19 goals and assisting 13 alongside the likes of Diego Costa. Hazard would also win the Premier League for the first time along with the League Cup. Hazard would be named POTY and win several personal accolades as well.
If Hazard had a poor season it was the 15/16 season. The season as a whole was disastrous for Chelsea as there was plenty of internal and external turmoil which saw Mourinho sacked and Hiddink come in as caretaker manager. Hazard carried an injury for most of the season but played through it as he made 43 appearances scoring 6 and assisting 8. 4 of those goals came in the last 5 games as he did pick up form and scored the crucial goal against Spurs that led to Leicester winning the title.
Conte’s management saw Hazard play in a new formation of 3-4-3. Hazard was much closer to Diego Costa and the wingback system meant that Hazard did not have to defend that much off the ball. 16/17 would see Hazard win another Premier League title as Conte’s philosophy took the Premier League by storm. Hazard made 43 appearances scoring 17 goals and assisting 7. The Belgian was back at the top and would never look back.
17/18 was another season where the manager and players were let down after a poor pre season and transfer window. Chelsea finished 5th, and Conte left at the end of the season although not before Chelsea beat United in the FA Cup final in which Hazard scored the winning penalty after having won it. Hazard made 52 appearances scoring 17 goals and assisting 13.
Sarri’s introduction saw Chelsea change the system again to a 4-3-3 but for the first time since Ancelotti the philosophy also changed drastically. Chelsea no longer played counter attacking football but played a possession based high pressing football. The change in philosophy did wonders for Hazard as more time with the ball meant that he created more. Hazard made 52 appearances scoring 21 goals and assisting 17 as Chelsea finished 3rd in the table. Hazard also scored two against Arsenal in the Europa League final in what was a perfect farewell to the club and the Chelsea fans.
352 appearances for Chelsea 110 goals and 92 assists, 7 seasons 6 trophies. If I had to sum up Eden Hazard it would be a player that never took stuff too seriously but always gave everything for those 90 minutes on the pitch. When Hazard has the ball you know something is going to happen. Countless brilliant goals against Spurs, Liverpool, United, Arsenal, City etc and the best player over the last 7 years of the Premier League. My favourite player ever is Kaka and he also left Milan to join Real after that Hazard has been my favourite and he takes a similar path. The only hope is that he realises his dream of winning the Champions League and wins the Ballon D’or as well removing any doubt that he is one of the best players to have graced the sport.
Thank you Eden Hazard, it was a pleasure. Once a blue always a blue.