21 Midfielder Borussia Mönchengladbach (on loan from Chelsea) Belgium
2014 has been…
Eden Hazard is a pretty good footballer. In 2011, he guided Lille to the Ligue 1 title in France. He has continued to improve as a player since joining Chelsea in 2012 and is a much better player than the one that set the French top-flight alight for Rudi Garcia’s swashbuckling Dogues. So when someone like Eden Hazard suggests that his younger sibling is actually better than him then it is understandable that the whole footballing world are going to get more than a little carried away.
Unfortunately, Eden has lied to us all.
Thorgan Hazard is very good. His former coaches at Lens, Johan Boskamp and Eric Assadourian, are both big fans of his skills and rightfully so. His ability to take on and go past players with relative ease is something many others before him have spent years trying to perfect with minimal success. His passing is pretty good and his final delivery is the stuff of dreams for strikers.
Sadly, better than Eden Hazard he is not and it’s really unlikely that he ever will be. Weirdly were it not for the existence of his sibling, we’d probably be getting a lot more excited about Thorgan and his future with Chelsea. However, we’ve seen what the mixing of Hazard parent DNA can produce – both decent footballers in their own right – and we can’t help but feel a little let-down with Thorgan.
He’s still a good player and once he works on his overall strength and is able to work on performing to his fullest across the full 90 minutes, he’ll be ready for the very best in Europe. He starred in the Belgian top flight last season but has failed to break into a Gladbach side that have started the season incredibly well. Thorgan has played in the majority of their games this season but nine of his 10 league appearances for Die Fohlen have been from the substitute’s bench.
An adaptable player, it’s clear why Lucien Favre wanted to take Thorgan on loan to Germany. He can play across the attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 that has become the norm for the fresh-faced Gladbach side that the Swiss manager is putting together.
A natural number 10, Thorgan is blessed with a delicate touch, sublime control and an eagerness to drive forward with the ball at his feet. At times during 2013/14 it felt a little unfair that Zulte Waregem had a player who was comfortably head and shoulders above anyone else in the competition. Hazard suited their system brilliantly and confidence oozed out of every pour as he bagged 14 goals during the season. There were still the drops in performance but in the Jupiler Pro League, they can be forgiven. That’s less acceptable in the Bundesliga or the Premier League.
As you are likely to know, Thorgan’s early career path mirrors that of his elder brother. The younger Hazard started off with Stade Brainois in Belgium before heading to Tubize and eventually joining Eden in the French footballing system. Thorgan caught the attention of the Lens scouts, close rivals of Lille, and soon moved into the highly acclaimed academy. Having siblings plying their trade in the youth teams of two rival clubs probably created an interesting dynamic in the Hazard household.
He made his debut with Lens seniors under Jean-Guy Wallemme when he was only 17 and scored an equaliser against Roulers. With Lens in the French second division, he played 14 times and was able to show flashes of his tremendous raw ability. His promotion to the first team was confirmed in 2011/12 but he was unable to show enough consistency as part of the squad and failed to get a regular place in the team.
That said a move to Chelsea soon followed; although given the London’s club recent ability to stockpile talented young attacking midfielders, such as Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Lucas Piazon and Willian, we assume there was a business sense to the move as well as bringing the Hazard brothers together in the capital.
Thorgan is capable of being a match winner or a waste of a substitution. That’s the problem for Gladbach this season as they attempt to fight their way back into the Champions League after Marco Reus previously inspired the club into Europe’s elite competition. There is no way of knowing which Hazard is going to get on the ball and that hurts his chances of regular selection in a league as competitive as Germany’s top flight.
After being signed too early by Chelsea and starring for Zulte in Belgium, Thorgan’s move to Gladbach was always going to be keenly watched. With his brother, Ramires, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schurrle all ahead of him in the pecking order under Jose Mourinho, there may be more than a handful of potential suitors impressed by Kevin De Bruyne’s switch to Wolfsburg and keen to take another capable young playmaker off Chelsea’s hands. To prove he is the real deal, Thorgan needs to start sparkling in the Bundesliga and that includes putting a shift in.
Favre’s Gladbach side are big fans of the “all court press” and Thorgan will need to shed the Hazard family trait of not tracking back if he wants to get a fair lick during his season long loan.
Thorgan will be in charge of his own future. Chelsea will be keen to see him succeed as at the very least, that means a tidy profit towards FFP for the London side. He has an abundance of talent and already shown he is too good for a second level league like Belgium. His move to Germany will set up where he can go in the next two or three seasons; if that is back to Stamford Bridge and into the first team squad, or more seasons in other leagues trying to find consistent performances.
For now, he’ll remain “Eden Hazard’s younger brother” and that is going to be a tough tag to get rid of.
"Still in the shadows of his brother, Thorgan has come along nicely as a squad player in Favre's impressive Gladbach side this season." - Cris Nyari
"Thorgan Hazard helped himself to 14 goals last season for Zulte Waregem." - OptaJoe
C Consistency is key
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