Eden Hazard – The inconsistent peril
The boom and bust of Eden Hazard's footballing journey.
Too often Eden Hazard is the punch line that precedes the boom. He’d be better off in a comedy show. His demeanor, his consistency, his height, one big joke, all of it, one long never-ending joke. His career has been a few ephemeral sharp intakes of air and a lot of disappointing eyes. He’s personified touch me not. It’s not swimming Eden, it’s football. He’s managed to outrun parody.
The one thing you could rely on when everything else failed was his speed, but what use is it if Chelsea can’t get the ball across the halfway line and Eden Hazard refuses to come back and defend. No wonder he’s been the poster boy of Chelsea’s dressing room rebellion against defensive football. Hazard does not exclusively avoid behind the scene drama, in fact often is the Moriarty that fabricates it.
To football fans, he can be a bit of a dice throw. That double sixes is extremely rare, but when it does happen, you’ll jump higher than Grandpa Joe. To defense oriented managers, he’s useless. To a Belgium fan, an occasional penalty star. To an EPL fan, just about nothing, or anything, and nothing, from one moment to the next. To a right back, an absolute nightmare, given Chelsea plays him. To a ball boy, death.
But to Chelsea fans, he’s their only hope, whether they like to admit it or not. Their salvation from a decade long of defensive football. Their stone of resurrection after an embarrassment of a season. The difference between Chelsea fans and Liverpool fans is when Chelsea fans say that next year will be Chelsea’s, you cannot laugh right at their faces. Chelsea do not sell their prized possessions.
Late in 2007, a 16-year-old made his professional debut. The age didn’t matter. What did is the carnage, the bruises to the defenders of the opposing team and the humiliation to the goalkeepers. He was a nightmare neatly wrapped in a small man’s body ready to burst out with his speed and alacrity. As it is said in not exactly the same context, he was “not one of the bottle”, he was perceptibly special. His pace, his inability to be dispossessed easily, along with his finishing led one of his earlier coaches Claude Puel dubbing him as “little Messi”, which is probably apt given that Jose Mourinho later claims he is “better than Ronaldo”. Axiomatically, this should solve one of the biggest debates in today’s football.
There is an inveterate natural kickback bred into dribblers. They are taught to not over dribble and know when to pass. More often than not, Hazard suffers from remembering that. Although one can argue that most of the Belgian’s goals are accurately placed passes into the bottom right corner of the net. Nothing’s worse for a goalkeeper’s career if Eden Hazard manages to score a header against him.
The Belgian has made it a habit to point to his head accompanied with a surprised smile as his celebration, every time he manages to find the back of the net with his head. His nonchalance is unparalleled. It’s a rare sight to spot the Belgian in a group of squabbling footballers on the field, but of course, that could be because of his sheer size. Eden Hazard was once reported eating a hamburger, walking out of the stadium right after he was substituted off the pitch.
Hazard boasts an idiosyncratic penalty taking technique. He stares at the ball for a second or so before his run up and then never looks at it again until the ball has found the net. During his run up, he analyses the goalkeeper’s movement and since he does not look at the ball, he knows exactly where to place it.
The Belgium Euro 2016 captain has a ton to prove in the tournament, especially in the absence of EPL rival and national teammate Vincent Kompany. It’s an Atlas’s burden to lead the number one ranked team ahead of the tournament and cope with the pressure that stems from fans with high expectations. The tournament is set to test his attitude as a captain, his skills as a forward and his leadership. But above all, to ever again be compared to the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, he doesn’t have to improve his game; he just has to keep it consistent.