Eden Hazard turns 28 today and has entered his seventh year at Chelsea. Easily one of the greatest players in the club’s history, Hazard has worn the shirt with pride and has brought immense joy to the Chelsea fanbase. Today, I’ve taken a look back on his career in West London…
Roll it back six and a half years. Hazard signed for the Blues in the summer of 2012, announcing the move on his Twitter account with the famous “I’m signing for the Champions League winner.” tweet which sent fans into a frenzy and made him an instant favourite. The transfer was made official by the club a week later for a reported fee of £32m.
The Belgian’s first goal for the club came on the 25th August 2012 against Newcastle United. Although it was from the penalty spot, it was the first of his 101 goals for the club, and counting.
Relive Hazard’s first Chelsea goal from the stands: (Credit: YouTube – Ilkin Ismayilov)
During the 2012/13 campaign, Hazard netted 13 goals in all competitions and provided an impressive 24 assists. Arguably the best of those 13 strikes came against Sparta Prague in the last 32 of the Europa League. With the score locked level on aggregate, Hazard entered the pitch as a substitute and weaved his way through the opponent’s defence before unleashing an explosive strike into the top corner and send Chelsea into the next round of the competition they would go on to win three months later.
A month prior to this memorable goal came Hazard’s most controversial moment in a Chelsea shirt. He was sent off in a League Cup semi-final game against Swansea City for appearing to kick a ball boy as he attempted to retrieve the ball from the youngster. The 17-year-old ball boy went on to admit that he planned to deliberately waste time, and Hazard revealed after the game that the two exchanged apologies.
The following season Hazard helped Chelsea to a title challenge, contributing 17 goals in all competitions but only managing 10 assists. The 2013/14 campaign was huge for Hazard individually. The Belgian was named in the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or and was voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year as well as the PFA Young Player of the Year. He was also a sublime Luis Suárez individual campaign away from winning the outright PFA Player of the Year award.
He received endless praise from managers, including after a 4-3 win at Sunderland in which his own boss, José Mourinho, claimed he had delivered the best performance of the season. Sunderland manager, and Chelsea great, Gus Poyet said: “Eden Hazard was outstanding. He was unplayable, as a manager I haven’t come up against anyone like that.”
Hazard won the Premier League and League Cup in the 2014/15 season and in doing so won the PFA Player of the Year award as well as being named Chelsea’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming just the fifth in the club’s history to do so.
His penalty against Arsenal in October 2014 meant he maintained his 100% conversion rate for the club and became the only player in Europe to have taken 15+ penalties and never missed.
Hazard committed his long-term future to the club in February 2015 after putting pen-to-paper in a fresh five-and-a-half-year contract with the Blues. After signing, Hazard said: “I’ve signed a new contract and I’m very happy because I’m playing for one of the best clubs in the world.” He followed this up by winning the League Cup against rivals Tottenham, playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 win.
A week after winning the PFA Player of the Year award, Hazard scored the goal against Crystal Palace to ensure the club lifted the Premier League for only the second time in nine years. Ironically, it came from a missed penalty which he then converted following Julian Speroni’s save.
Hazard’s title winning goal: (Credit: YouTube – Genius Programmer)
The Premier League’s best player went from hero to zero as Chelsea slumped to an embarrassing 10th placed finish in 2016, the worst title defence in Premier League history (for 12 months at least…). Hazard infamously went 356 days without a goal but still had a say in where the Premier League trophy went. His superb strike against Tottenham in May 2016 prevented the title going to North London and instead made its way north to Leicester. We will be forever thankful for that, Eden.
But anyway, the less we say about the 2015/16 season, the better.
The winger quickly went from zero back to hero the following season. He achieved his best ever tally in the Premier League, scoring 16 goals under Antonio Conte. The club won the Premier League for the second time in Hazard’s spell at Chelsea and reached the FA Cup Final. It was another sublime individual season for Hazard, featuring in the PFA Team of the Year and putting in countless jaw-dropping performances against the best sides in the division. Hazard led the Blues to their twelfth consecutive Premier League victory, a new club record, in a 3-0 win over Bournemouth.
The Belgian could not prevent the club from another disappointing season in 2018, finishing 5th and missing out on Champions League qualification. In a tough season for the club, Hazard shone and his ability was attracting the biggest clubs in Europe. Real Madrid came calling…
With Cristiano Ronaldo departing the Bernbéu for the Old Lady, there was only one clear replacement. Chelsea fans began to worry as the rumours of Hazard switching the blue of Chelsea for the famous white of Real Madrid circulated rapidly. Some fans became frustrated with the playmaker after some of his quotes about the situation came to light.
“If they let me out, you already know my favourite destination.” Those were the words of Hazard when asked about the possibility of him moving to Madrid. Hazard has always remained loyal to Chelsea, never moaned, never forced a move, but some fans were fearing the worst that their idol could go AWOL and demand a switch to Los Blancos.
A move never came to fruition but the rumours still linger. Hazard has brought unrivalled joy to the Chelsea fanbase; his dribbling, passing, touch, close-control and professional mentality have made him a legend at the club. Comfortably one of the best players in the world, and without Chelsea challenging for titles at the moment, the chances of Hazard wearing a Real Madrid shirt could be closer to reality than some Blues fans would want, but one thing is for certain. Six and a half years, 101 goals, five trophies, countless individual awards, many incredible moments, plenty of jealousy from opposing fans. Eden Hazard, Happy Birthday from Chelsea.
Written by Liam Wilson.