The long protracted Eden Hazard saga came to an end yesterday, when @hazardeden10 tweeted,” I’m signing for the champion’s league winner.” (sic). A saga, which Hazard himself stretched it an extreme with his continued tweets, which offered ‘clues’ as to which team he’d sign for. In fact, he began beating his own drums when he stated that several top European clubs were after his signature. But make no mistake, Eden Hazard is a brilliant player, and an even bigger prospect, and his transfer to Chelsea can have tremendous repercussions for the entire English Premier League, and maybe European football in general.
With 20 goals and 15 assists to his name in the 2011/12 season at the young age of 21, he is by no means overrated. And even when he wasn’t adding to that enviable tally, his presence on the pitch, seemed to lift Lille to greater heights. He will add to Chelsea what they sorely missed throughout the season – speed and creativity. The creative onus far too often fell on Juan Mata and Ramires, and on the occasions Chelsea lacked the required guile, they looked deprived of inspiration and looked to Didier Drogba to barge through opposition defenders, and carve a way through to goal. And if Chelsea want to sit back and absorb pressure the way they did against Barcelona, they’ll need a player who is able to counter at break-neck speed, and create chances. Eden Hazard is just that player; in fact, he’ll start the move and finish it all by himself. Comparisons are already being made between him and Cristiano Ronaldo considering how similar their styles of play are. Both like to leave full-backs in a no-man’s land and cut in towards goal, both make abundant use of step-overs and Rabona’s, both have delectably poweful shots, and for all that it’s worth, both are the cockiest footballers one could meet (Balotelli aside).
His choice of club seemed to be limited to the two Manchester clubs till the minute before Drogba converted his penalty to win the UEFA Champion’s League final. Then on, Hazard began to sway towards Abramovich’s riches. Of course, all three would be able to offer him good money, not least Chelsea and City. But the reasons he chose the European Champions are relatively simple. They’d offer him a regular starting role, in his preferred ‘no.10′ position, while City would not. David Silva is obviously indispensible and Samir Nasri is showing a return to form, they wanted him to play on the wings. He wanted his team to be ambitious in their transfers. Manchester United‘s continued lack of funds to spend on the ‘big players’ may have driven Hazard away, despite a guaranteed starting place. To him, Chelsea are a more ambitious club than Manchester United. That may not be entirely true, but Roman Abramovich is definitely a more ambitious owner than Malcolm Glazer will ever be.
It is frightening to see how Chelsea flexed their financial muscle to scare away the nouveau riche City. If nothing more, it’s a signal of intent from the Russian oligarch to remind City who the real moneyed Blues are in the Premier League. And if Chelsea end up successfully buying Hulk from Porto, clubs ought to sit up and take notice, or suffer like United have. Not only will they have attackers in the realm of Fernando Torres, Mata, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Hazard and Hulk, all possibly in the same eleven, but Chelsea, in theory, would have returned to their glory days of limitless wealth and parallel success, something not encountered since Jose Mourinho bid them farewell.
As I write, Chelsea have no permanent manager, and Friday signals the end of Roberto Di Matteo’s successful term as interim manager. They would do well to retain him, as all the players have backed him and seem confident under his reign. However, they would do better to pull off a coup and appoint someone the stature of Pep Guardiola. That is unlikely, given his repeated insistence at needing a “break”, but it would send through world football, and as we have learnt, always expect the unexpected from Chelsea, and Abramovich.