Eden Hazard is the real deal.
After only two Premier League matches, it's already clear that Chelsea have found a star. He may only be 21 years old, but he's played a key role in Chelsea's early-season success. Additionally, on an individual level, Hazard is an incredibly intriguing player.
Note: Hazard's history and statistics will be pulled from his profile on ChelseaFC.com.
Hazard was born in Belgium to football-playing parents. They both played professionally, which undoubtedly had an effect on him at a young age. He grew up around football. And, as corny as it sounds, he's clearly a natural.
He began his youth career at Royal Stade Brainois and Tubize in Belgium before moving to Lille in 2005, where he eventually broke onto his first senior side.
Time at Lille
Hazard signed his first professional contract in 2007, and he made his debut for the Lille senior team in November. He made a few appearances as a substitute that season, but he spent most of his time on the reserves.
The next season, as a 17-year-old, Hazard was a first-team regular and earned Ligue 1's Player of the Year award. Then, in the 2009-10 season, he was better than ever, earning his second consecutive Player of the Year award, as well as being named to Ligue 1's team of the year.
At the beginning of the next season, though, Hazard was publicly criticized by his national team manager, Georges Leekens, for being lazy in training. Meanwhile, he was dropped from the Lille starting XI.
Despite the early troubles, Hazard returned to the first team and helped his team win the league and cup double. Additionally, he was named the Player of the Year for France's top league. To date, it is still the most successful year of Hazard's career.
Although the team wasn't as successful in 2011-12, Hazard was just as good, scoring 21 goals and assisting on 18 others in 48 matches. He clearly was ready for a move to a big club, and Chelsea took the chance, bringing him in for £32 million.
Now that he's in England, it'll be interesting to see how Hazard's style transfers.
He's an attacking midfielder, and he creates scoring chances. He has three assists in two matches, while also setting up penalties by getting fouled on two separate occasions. Therefore, out of six goals, Hazard has been directly involved with five of them.
He has yet to score himself, but that's not Hazard's niche. He will score plenty of goals; it will just take some time. Inherently, his style is about setting up teammates, not scoring goals. As he develops, he will find the net on a regular basis. For now, though, he will continue to maintain possession and give teammates chances to score.
On the possession side of things, Hazard has one of the best touches on Chelsea's roster. His control is superb, and his first touch is always in the right direction. He has a high IQ for such a young player, and it is clear that he knows what he's doing on the pitch with and without the ball.
Hazard is always in good control of his body. While he can fend off defenders, Hazard understands when it's time to hit the deck. At times, it appears that he's going down too easily. However, it's usually a case where he is avoiding serious contact and risking injury.
This may cause some naysayers to question Hazard's toughness, but his unique ability to get knocked down will help him be successful in the long run. He won't take as much of a beating, and he will be more likely to play 90 minutes on a regular basis.
Future at Chelsea
Chelsea are in a transitional stage as a football club, attempting to get younger without sacrificing competitiveness. Accordingly, the Blues still expect to win a trophy this year.
Ideally, it would be an EPL and/or European crown at the end of the year, but it will be incredibly tough with such a young lineup. With that said, growing pains aren't an excuse. So far this season, Chelsea have won maximum points, and their best player has been a 21-year-old. While it hasn't been against the toughest competition, Hazard has proven that he can get the job done.
For this season, Hazard needs to adjust to life in England, while still improving as a footballer. He will play an intricate part in Chelsea's success; it's just a matter of how much success there is.
Moving forward, though, Hazard has all the tools to become a superstar. Despite being called lazy and selfish a few years ago, he seems pretty determined to become an elite footballer.
Right now, he's an extremely talented youngster. Once he matures as a person and player, Hazard could become a legitimate superstar in the EPL. For him, the sky is the limit.
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