After scoring a last minute winner against Sparta Prague last Thursday, Eden Hazard followed it up with a rather sheepish display against Manchester City. I decided to assess the contribution Hazard has made to Chelsea and discuss whether or not they made the right move for the Belgian last summer, who cost them £32million.
The most sought after transfer target in the summer of 2012, Eden Hazard was attracting interest all around Europe, flirting with all the top clubs. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain were all lining up bids for the Belgian youngster, all desperate for his signature. Which ever club signed him were not only getting a potential world-beater, but they were also ensuring any rivals would miss out on the brightest thing to come out of Belgian football for quite some time.
Chelsea eventually won the race for the former Lille starlet, and Hazard took little time to settle in to his new surroundings. Having just scored 20 goals and assisted 15 others the season prior to his move for French side Lille, big expectations were put on his shoulders.
He has already scored seven Premier League goals and assisted seven more whilst I write this, despite only joining the club in May. Hazard has developed an excellent partnership with fellow attacking midfielder Juan Mata. The pair have combined to create 16 goals, scoring 17 and creating 19 chances for team-mates.
An interesting statistic is how effective Eden Hazard has been under his two different club managers this term.
Under Roberto Di Matteo: Four Goals. Seven Assists. 20 Games.
Under Rafael Benitez: Five Goals: Six Assists. 20 Games.
Two similar records you could argue, but Hazard's impact earlier on was much more decisive, often being the difference in games. But his performances under Benitez are much more impressive with a closer, more psychological look.
Hazard has had to accept that joining the European champions has not been the dream move that he thought it would be. With the managerial upheaval and the disappointing exit from this year's Champions League, League cup and even Premier League.
Of course this is expected from any model, professional footballer. After all, not everything can be perfect for a sportsman hey? But for a 22 year old who just last year had the whole world at his feet, he has shown he does have a passionate desire to help Chelsea succeed, which is more than can be said for another multi-million pound signing on the books at Chelsea.
Which makes me wonder, was Eden Hazard bought for Eden Hazard? Or was he bought to get Fernando Torres scoring?
Of course, the two pretty much go hand in hand. In bringing in Eden Hazard, Chelsea have signed a player with world-class potential, and thus help their own £50million signing. But was Eden Hazard just a fancy acquisition to help Fernando Torres?
To shoulder all the blame for Fernando Torres' woes on Eden Hazard is unfair, but if that was his initial task upon joining Chelsea then he has failed.
It is in fact a different Chelsea midfielder currently orchestrating the Blues' attack. Juan Mata, who cost £9million pound less than Eden Hazard has been player of the season for Chelsea so far. The Spaniard is the leading goal-scorer and assist-maker this season for Chelsea, and at the age of 24 looks an incredible bit of business.
In Mata's debut season at Chelsea, the Spaniard finished off with 13 assists and 6 goals in the Premier League. Hazard has more goals than his midfield partner already this season, and has 11 more league games to go.
Another Spanish midfielder to take the Premier League by storm was David Silva. The Spaniard was pivotal in Manchester City's title win last season, and arrived at the blue side of Manchester for £8million less than the Belgian. Silva finished his first season in the Premier League season with 7 assists and 4 goals to his name. Again, Hazard has had a greater impact in his first season than the £24million man.
To date, Eden Hazard has had a very impressive campaign. The Belgian has 7 goals and 7 assists and will end up with double figures in the league standings alone. Hazard has surpassed the double figure mark in all competitions already, with ESPN reporting that he has 11 goals and 15 assists for Chelsea to date. Not a bad return from the £32million man.
My Verdict: Chelsea paid £32million for a now 22 year old versatile, attacking midfielder who has quickly taken the Premier League by storm. In just his debut season at Stamford Bridge, Hazard has quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous players in the league. He was the start of the influx of youth as Chelsea looked to minimize the average of the squad, and has been a success.
In my opinion, no footballer should be worth £32million. But in comparing Eden Hazard's debut season with the other top midfielder's in the Premier League, he certainly does stand out.