Gareth Bale Fee to Real Madrid Makes Eden Hazard a Chelsea Bargain
"I'm signing for the Champions League winner."
Being constrained to a maximum of 140 characters, what Eden Hazard's tweet (below) lacked in depth last summer, confirming he was joining Chelsea, it more than made up for in significance after bringing to an end a bidding war for his signature.
Many of Europe's leading clubs had been in pursuit of the Belgian—Real Madrid included—but it was Chelsea's desire to bring him to Stamford Bridge that saw them willing to stump up the £32 million fee Lille were demanding.
For a player so young—Hazard was 21 years old at the time—the wisdom of Chelsea's outlay was rightly questioned.
I'm signing for the champion's league winner.— Eden hazard (@hazardeden10) May 28, 2012
After all, here was a player with just one season of Champions League football under his belt—actually, if we're getting technical, it was more like half a season given Lille crashed out in the group stage.
And with due respect to Ligue 1, he hadn't faced the challenges on a weekly basis that his peers in Spain, England and Germany often do.
Kudos to Michael Emenalo and Chelsea, though. They saw the potential of what Hazard could bring to the Blues' lineup and they put Roman Abramovich's rubles where their mouth is, reaping the rewards since.
It's a little over 12 months on and with Gareth Bale's transfer fee from Tottenham Hotspur being quoted as anything from £78 million (via Daily Mail) to £90 million (via The Telegraph), Florentino Perez must be kicking himself Los Blancos didn't test Chelsea's will in their pursuit of Hazard.
Many have tried, but few have conquered the Bayern Munich defence like Hazard did in the Super Cup this week. Played in Prague's aptly named Eden Stadium, the headline puns were already written where the Belgian was concerned and he didn't disappoint.
The sight of him gliding beyond right-back Rafinha after just eight minutes, releasing Andre Schurrle out wide before the German crossed for Fernando Torres' wonderful opening goal, was as equally majestic as it was frightening—a moment big European nights are made for.
It certainly perked up Bayern's boss Pep Guardiola and after 56 minutes of Hazard terrorizing Rafinha, the ex-Barcelona manager had seen enough. He introduced Javi Martinez in the midfield, moving Philipp Lahm back to his more familiar right-back position, but even that couldn't stop Chelsea's Belgian.
Down to 10 men in extra-time after Ramires saw red, Hazard proved the perfect foil for Chelsea's counter-attack play. He pushed the opposition on to the back foot and scored a fine goal of his own to put his team back in front, despite Bayern's numerical advantage.
It was a goal worthy of winning the match and would have had Martinez not proved the unlikeliest of Die Roten's stars to equalize, making it 2-2 with virtually the last kick of the game.
Hazard's performance was exceptional and on the weekend the summer transfer window finally closes, serves as a reminder of what an excellent signing he has proved to be.
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Stats via ESPNFC.co.uk
Sure, Bale is a player of equal ability, but if the Welshman does indeed depart White Hart Lane before Monday for the figures being banded around, Hazard's £32 million will be seen as a bargain.
Friday's performance was not a one-off. Hazard has been doing it since he first arrived in West London. He bagged five assists in his opening six Chelsea appearances and finished 2012/13 with 13 goals.
Who those goals came against is significant.
Trailing 2-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup, his introduction from the bench rescued Chelsea after he scored within seven minutes. The Blues eventually drew 2-2, winning the replay 1-0.
He scored vital goals in other important fixtures: a last-minute penalty against United in the Capital One Cup to send the game into extra-time, another 90th-minute equalizer against Sparta Prague to clinch Chelsea's place in the Europa League Round of 16, followed by a penalty at Anfield against Liverpool in April.
Bale or Hazard - who represents better value for money?
Similar to Bale, Hazard is a player who influences games and wins vital points for his team. Costing Chelsea less than half the transfer fee Madrid are expected to pay for the Spurs man, though, it's clear who has got the better deal.
The Belgian is two years Bale's junior. With another couple of campaigns under his belt, who knows how deadly he might be.
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