Why Eden Hazard May Have to Settle for PFA Young Player of the Year This Season

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring  the opening goal against lNewcastle during their English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Newcastle United in London Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

One is fast becoming English football's golden boy, the other cleaning up his image as the bad boy of the Premier League but who will finish the season as Player of the Year: Eden Hazard or Luis Suarez?

For all the equine analogies in 2013-14, the race to be named England's finest has very much become a two-horse race.

No player has matched the contribution or impact of Hazard and Suarez on their respective teams this term and in the coming weeks, we'll learn whose influence has made the greater impression.

Indeed, having cost Chelsea £32 million in the summer of 2012, the past nine months or so have been a coming of age for Hazard.

He showed last season the talent he boasts, yet this year he has upped the ante—he has well and truly arrived.

The Belgian has gone from young pretender to the real deal, no longer just a hot prospect impacting matches but winning them single-handed.

Hazard has all but doubled his goal tally in the Premier League—last year seven, this season 13 and counting—while starring roles in big fixtures have helped prove the difference for his team.

It's not going to be enough to out do Suarez, though.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

When it comes to their individual attributes, there are strengths and weaknesses in each player that balance things out, making it difficult to categorically determine who is most talented.

For Chelsea and Liverpool fans, it's a simple answer based on the color of their shirt. Outside of that, however, a somewhat different formula is required.

Suarez's 24 Premier League goals this season is a significant return for the Uruguayan. So significant in fact, it has maintained Liverpool's title charge into March. That they remain with a very realistic shout at claiming a league crown for the first time in over two decades so late in the season, is testament to Suarez's brilliant play.

Yet, remove Suarez from Brendan Rodgers' team and suddenly they are a different prospect altogether.

Comparing Eden Hazard and Luis Suarez in the 2013-14 Premier League
PL GamesPL GoalsPL Chances CreatedPL ShotsPL Shot AccuracyPL Pass Accuracy
Eden Hazard2913794365%83%
Luis Suarez23246710755%75%

Sure, the Reds started the season looking strong in his absence—Suarez watching from the sidelines while completing a 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic last year—but without him, there are doubts as to whether they would have maintained it.

Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho have more than played their part, though it's the inspirational performances of Suarez that have carried Liverpool through. He puts them on another level.

"It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it," is the saying and, boy, has Suarez done it in some style. There have been wonder goals, logic-defying hat-tricks and mind blowing assists—2013-14 really has been his year.

For Hazard, he hasn't been alone in his endeavors at Stamford Bridge. With an endless list of talented stars around him, there have been times he has been allowed to switch off and take a breather to let others carry the weight.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Chelsea currently sit seven points clear at the top of the table on the back of a lot more than what he has given them. It isn't quite the Eden Hazard Show in west London just yet.

Cirque du Suarez at Anfield it is however, and while there is the impression Chelsea have enough about them to cope without their talisman, Liverpool can't when Suarez isn't firing.

The clue is in the title: Player of the Year. It isn't an award for the best team, it's an award for the man who has stood out the most, captured the nation's imagination and helped his team achieve success—or in Suarez's case, beyond their means.

Hazard isn't going to finish the season empty-handed. There's no catching Chelsea at the top of the table now—the name of Jose Mourinho's team is practically already on the Premier League trophy.

When it comes to personal recognition, though, he will have to settle for second best and the Young Player of the Year Award, playing the role of young apprentice to his peer's mastery.

Hazard's time will come but right now it belongs to Suarez.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes