The gloriously named Eden Hazard has surfaced in the news again this week after disappointing fans of Arsenal, Real Madrid and Manchester United, not to mention tabloid headline writers everywhere, by signing a contract extension at Lille. The deal will keep Hazard at the Ligue 1 club until 2014, or until Real Madrid come along with enough shiftily acquired money to make all that go away.
The 19 year old Belgian international has been a ‘rising star’ for some years now, first coming to the attention of the big clubs at the 2007 U-17 European Championship. It was last year however that he really started making people sit up and take notice with a number of inspired performances which saw him named the French league’s Young Player of the Season. His maturity and intelligence belies a player of his tender age and his already growing repetoire of tricks and skills, not to mention early Giggs like dribbly goals (granted dribbly goals isn’t the greatest phrase, but I’m going with it and you get what I mean) has had youtube geeks wetting themselves for months now.
Despite sounding like a working title for Genesis (the book not the band) or a bad late 80s stadium rock group, Hazard has even garned praise from the doyen of French football, Zinedine Zidane, who’s ability to spot talent has so far been greater than fellow footballing Hall of Famer Pele’s, which isn’t really all that hard to be honest given the Brazilians track record.
Although making a player look like the next Maradona crossed with Ronaldo meets Cruyff in a flashily edited and modernly soundtracked youtube clip isn’t hard, it also isn’t hard to spot the undoubted quality the boy possesses from these clips alone. In France he’s been hyped up bigger than the new ‘new Zidane’ Yoann Gourcuff was and his Player of the Year award capped a season in which he genuinely backed up his style with considerable substance. He’s continued where he left off this season, scoring in Lille’s first competitive match and contributing 6 goals and 9 assits in his 20 odd appearances so far, helping to propel the club into the Champions League places they missed out on last season.
Previously tied to the club until 2012, Lille were quick to move this week to extend his deal meaning, providing the world hasn’t ended in dramatic fashion, either a further 2 years of enjoying his talents or larger buy out clause should he, as seems likely eventually, move on to greater things.
The French League has often provided a good testing ground for Premiership talent, but also often a misleading one. Hazard would probably suit La Liga better, but if he could be convinced to come to England, he could mature into a more Ronaldo-esque complete package. Whatever his future, the boy does have skills, considerably so, so if you don’t already know it, remember the name…I’m sure you will, it’s very hard to forget.