The Stamford Bridge club has an unwanted reputation for lavishing big money on fading stars, but whoever it was in the Chelsea hierarchy that pinpointed Eden Hazard as a transfer target may well have redeemed themselves.
For a few years now, Hazard has been lauded as one of those players that could be something special, and during his first term at Stamford Bridge he suggested that a breakthrough may occur with some spectacular cameo performances, but had ever delivered the consistent excellence required to be regarded as a world-class star. The arrival of Jose Mourinho however may just have given Hazard’s career the vital push to get him into that bracket.
The Portuguese manager arrived at the club with a warning that its stars layers would be required to work the hardest because they had the most to give. It’s the doctrine that saw Juan Mata fall out of favour with his manager, although that may be on the turn now, and also the one that has seen young Brazilian Oscar appear so crucial an element in the team, and one that that Hazard has taken on board and is now propelling forward into the ranks of the stellar Premier league players.
This weeks’ game against Sunderland gave a graphic example of this. Even leaving aside the two goals and delicate chipped assist for Lampard’s opening goal, the exuberance of Hazard’s displaying, often drawing two, or even three players towards him when in possession meant space was created for team-mates. It’s a gift that was well exploited as Chelsea garnered four goals to follow on from their three against Southampton.
Perhaps the best endorsements of Hazard’s performance came from both of the managers involved in the game. Chelsea’s Mourinho, never keen to single out players for praise, always preferring instead to promote the collective team performance, said that he had to say that Hazard was “brilliant from the first minute until the last.” Gus Poyet simply described him as “unplayable.”
If Hazard can repeat such stellar performances on a regular basis, it may be that this could be one of those rare occasions when the Blues can look back on a transfer purchase, and think it was money well spent.