The term “world class” is often thrown around in football, with some players undeserving of the title. But this player definitely has the potential to be amongst the European elite in the next few years. Eden Hazard, the 19 year old Belgian midfield prodigy, is one of Europe’s hottest commodities and further improved his value with two excellent performances against Liverpool in the Europa League recently, scoring the winner for Lille in the first leg. Dubbed as the “next Cristiano Ronaldo” and “the little Messi”, the youngster has certainly been hyped up, but can he live up to all that hype and pressure?
Hazard’s rise has been meteoric since storming onto the scene for Lille last season, winning Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year Award, the first time the trophy has ever been given to a foreigner. Hazard is also a regular in the Belgium team, making his debut as a substitute in November 2008. This season, the midfielder has continued his stellar form of the previous year, making 27 appearances for Lille, scoring 4 goals and providing 6 assists.
So what is all the fuss about the “next Ronaldo”? Hazard can play either as a winger or an attacking midfielder and possesses excellent dribbling skills, great pace and superb vision that allows him to pick out some wonderful passes. Excellent at set pieces, Hazard’s maturity is rare for a 19 year old, as he will often look for the clever pass and is a proven match winner for Lille. He needs to work on some aspects of his game, mainly the power in his shooting, and needs to bulk up to resist the heavy challengers of opposing defenders, who have already started kicking the wonderkid off the ball.
Hazard is under contract with the Ligue 1 club until 2012, but that has not stopped all of Europe’s top clubs enquiring about the Belgian’s availability. The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Inter Milan have all registered their interest in the prodigal son of French football. Liverpool in particular have enquired about Hazard’s availability in the last week, but rumours of a £20 million price tag has cooled their interest.
So where can we expect Hazard to end up in the summer? Lille understandably want to keep their talented youngster, but a big offer would tempt them to cash in on Hazard while they can attract big money for him. Hazard himself has expressed a desire to move to Arsenal or Real Madrid, claiming they would be his “dream clubs”. The only problem is that the wonderkid would not come cheap, with £26 million rumoured to be the amount that it would take to bring Hazard to the Emirates.
If Arsenal refuse to stump up the money for Hazard, and Liverpool too debt-ridden to afford such a move, Manchester United could be a viable option. Hazard’s creativity, speed and great technical ability would make him a hit at Old Trafford. And why not replace the old Ronaldo with the new, younger version?
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