Joachim Loew spoke highly of Mesut Ozil’s tutelage under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. The German international had gone from a starring role at U21 level to one of the world’s leading playmakers and arguably the best No.10 currently playing the game.
Eden Hazard is on a similar path to greatness. Over the past three seasons, the Belgian international has a league and cup double and a Europa League winner’s medal under his belt. His move from France to the Premier League was rightly embellished with all the necessary fireworks and guesswork; being Ligue 1’s most valuable commodity at the time, it wouldn’t have been right to have it any other way.
And yet his performances during his first season in England have oddly gone a little under the radar in comparison to others. Sure, there were dips, but Chelsea as a whole were not the screaming banshee of a title contender that they have been in previous seasons. Hazard nevertheless recorded an astonishing 21 assists across all competitions last season. How many more would he have had if Chelsea were regularly fielding a confident and competent centre-forward?
Naturally the focus has been on Juan Mata, though the acknowledgement for the Oscar, Hazard, Mata triumvirate has been considerate. They’re interchangeable, for the most part. Each of them is able to lead some of the biggest clubs in European football to success as the sole conductor of a finely tuned orchestra. And yet here the three of them are, enmeshed into one glorious attacking unit and each able to hold a claim to be the future poster boy of the Premier League.
So what happens when you add a manager like Mourinho into the mix?
Hazard will finally be offered the first settled season he’s had since his double win with Lille three seasons ago. His final year in France was shrouded in transfer rumours, while last season he went through two managers at Stamford Bridge, one of whom was never going to be offered the time of day.
The media storm that surrounded Mourinho’s final season in Madrid shouldn’t take away from how much of a positive impact he had on both Ozil and Sami Khedira, who were and should continue to be among the team’s most important players, while the rise to prominence of Raphael Varane has been hailed as the Portuguese’s parting gift to the Spanish club.
And Mourinho has already made a pledge to continue Hazard’s development into becoming one of the world’s leading footballers. He was already one of Europe’s glittering names as a teenager; the then Mario Goetze or Isco. One of his first outings into English football saw him set up Fernando Torres with a cute back heel into the path of the Spaniard against Newcastle, finishing that game with a goal and an assist.
At 22, he’s matured from the 19-year-old who helped lead Rudi Garcia’s exhilarating Lille side to the French title. The following season he scored 20 in the league, as well as a further 15 assists. He’s the perfect blend of goal scorer and creator, able to play either the Cristiano Ronaldo role as he did while at Lille, or as the central hub like Ozil. Though he admits himself that he wants more goals, he even spoke of the possibility of reaching numbers like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
But the Premier League can be fickle; we need to see all of that first hand. Heck, even 25 and 25 in each column will catapult Hazard’s name into the esteemed company of players currently plying their trade in Europe. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be there from a talent standpoint.
How far will Mourinho’s influence take Hazard?
Join the debate below
[cat_link cat=”chelsea” type=”grid”]