Eden Hazard 20 Winger Lille
Along with Mario Götze, the star pupil from the 2010 Don Balon list. Still just 20 years old, vibrant winger Hazard rapiered through many a Ligue 1 defence in 2010-11 and was truly inspirational in leading Lille to the French championship.
With his parents disappointed by the facilities available to young players in Belgium, the short move across the border to Northern France for a fourteen year old may have proved daunting, but it did not take long for Hazard to stand out. Since debuting for Lille aged 16 in the 2007-08 season, Hazard has grown and truly blossomed in France, collecting numerous awards and accolades over the last four years. Last season’s title was well deserved with Hazard’s full throttle demolition of defences a regular feature. Ably assisted by Yoann Cabaye, Gervinho and Moussa Sow, the young Belgian was the catalyst for a memorable season.
Predictably Lille were unable to retain the services of such a talented cast, with Cabaye and Gervinho moving to England this summer and many observers anticipating that Hazard would follow. Sensibly though the Belgian has opted to remain in Northern France, although a move to one of Europe’s elite next summer may prove inevitable. Deployed primarily as a right winger, Hazard is the finest talent Belgium have produced since Enzo Scifo and has become the leading light of his nation’s new golden generation.
Despite his blistering start to a football career, we offer a word of caution for any club considering investing in the jet heeled atttacker, a Hazard warning, if we may use such a dreadful pun.
While we consider Hazard to be one of the best players in Europe, the part that Lille as a stable environment, the near proximity to family (Hazard has recently become a father) and the influence of coach Rudi Garcia have played in getting the best out of young winger should not be discounted. Garcia’s attack minded beliefs saw Lille christened the Barca of the North by sections of the French media and this positive philosophy, with Hazard positioned as the cutting edge, really brought the best out of the player.
However things haven’t gone quite so well at international level with criticism regarding attitude being voiced by both Dick Advocaat and current national coach Georges Leekens. The ‘hamburgergate’ affair (Hazard was pictured by Belgian TV eating a Hamburger after being substituted against Turkey) earlier this year has also done little to curry favour in Belgium.
The criticism seems a little harsh considering his age and, as a player, we’d like to see Hazard continue his football education in Northern France for at least another couple of years. That’s unlikely to be the case however as Lille will invariably have little option but to cash in on their prize asset at some point; Real Madrid now favourites to land a truly gifted player. Maybe just one more season then.
"Superlatives don't come close. Sprinkles stardust wherever he goes. Best player in France as Lille won league and cup. The sky's the limit." - Tom Williams (Journalist)
"He is not the next big thing because he is already here. Wonderful balance and grace, strong, assured. He knows when to pass and when to beat his man. Lille will enjoy 12 months more of Hazard and then he will be a joy to behold of whatever team are lucky enough to sign him. At his age he is the best player I have seen play live." - Andrew Gibney (French Football Weekly)
"What can this boy not do? Another astounding season wowed fans and pundits and the Belgian has decided to stay at Lille and expereience Champions League football. Expect it to act as a shop window for the big boys." - Jonathan Johnson (French Football weekly)
A Outstanding, joint top of the class. Don’t change.