Eden Hazard: Keep An Eye on Belgium's Next Superstar
He looked so precocious last night. Shirt baggy and untidy, baby-faced and a cocky swagger attached to him like a kid on a street corner.
A Belgian Paul Gascoigne.
A player with a football brain, playing with his heart, running wild amongst a sea of red shirts, hopelessly trying to be as creative as this stupidly talented footballer.
He stood over the ball with the brutish confidence of Wayne Rooney and slotted the ball past the bemused keeper.
This player was Eden Hazard, and last night, he arrived.
Now, I don't want to get ahead of myself and say this boy will single-handedly bring the World Cup to Belgium, but he is at least a natural heir to the Belgian's crown prince of football, Enzo Scifo.
In France, Lille sits sixth in the league table. Their season is reminiscent of Liverpool's, where the Europa League is there last avenue to some sort of glory. Oh, how Rafa Benitez would love to have somebody like Hazard within his ranks. A player of talent and not just heart. Above average on every count, he seems like the player Benitez hoped Babel would be.
Hazard has played 26 games this season and destroyed the opposition on a few occasions. He has shown remarkable poise and calmness while running rings around other players, much in the same vein as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although, on many occasions this season, Hazard has shown that he is unnaturally talented, he has also shown a great deal of maturity. He has committed himself to Lille's cause for four years after signing a new contract in the summer, warning potential suitors he still has an education to learn, in what many people believe is the best league in order to learn it, Ligue 1.
Last night might change that mindset after the world of football saw this teenager hop skip and jump around Liverpool, looking ever more comfortable in a big game playing one of Europe's biggest teams. The more he played, the more you saw him enjoying it, for a untested 19 year old, that was a huge achievement.
Arsenal led the chase for him. Wenger's tendency to invest in Gallic teenagers will appeal to Hazard, who it seems is keen to learn as much as possible and as soon as possible. However, you can bet your life that Barcelona, Real Madrid and even Chelsea are looking towards him with envious and curious eyes.
Time will tell I'm sure, but since Hazard doesn't have the stage of the World Cup in order to advertise himself, it might be this Europa League run that will get him a move to a bigger stage.
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