For the past decade, it has been hard to argue that any player has been up to the unbelievably high standards set by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Therefore, the debate has shifted to who holds the title of third best in the world. Is it Samba star Neymar? Midfield dynamo Kevin De Bruyne? Or, is it the ‘Belgian Messi’, 27-year-old Chelsea hero Eden Hazard.
Eden Hazard: Best of the Rest?
Hazard: gifted with a deft touch, superb passing and supreme dribbling; he has it all. Jamie Carragher said this season that Hazard is “the best player in the league” and “he is an absolute superstar”. It’s easy to see why the former Liverpool man has this view. Hazard is a showman; an entertainer; everything he does is perfect. He has the crowd on their feet whenever he receives the ball. Football, in its essence, is about enjoyment and anyone who watches Hazard enjoys it (unless they are the defender attempting to stop him).
Not Just The Greatest Showman
Hazard isn’t just a showman, he’s a marksman. Throughout his career, the Belgian has proven that he has an eye for goal. The statistics speak for themselves: in 219 games (in the Premier League) Hazard has scored 76 whilst also recording 43 assists. For a player who has played as a winger or second striker for his whole career, these numbers are impressive, to say the least.
This is perhaps the difference between Hazard and a player like Riyad Mahrez, who has astonishing dribbling and build-up play qualities but is perhaps lacking when it comes to his end product. Hazard has both. The comparisons between the Belgian and Messi are understandable. They both play the same positions, both are of similar build and both have the rare mix of goal-scoring and emphatic build-up play.
Lack of Consistency?
So, it’s clear why Hazard could be considered ‘the best of the rest’, but there are some arguments which criticise Hazard, namely they criticise his consistency. There is some weight behind this point of view. The easiest example to pick on in order to show this inconsistency is the 2015/16 season in the Premier League.
Hazard was lacklustre and looked to have lost his mojo; he hit the back of the net a mere four times in the league that season and questions were asked. The best players shine even when their club is in poor form (as Chelsea were). The best players individually shine in a good or bad team. Players such as Steven Gerrard highlight this ability of consistency well. Hazard has, on occasion, been said to have ‘gone missing’ when his team needs him. But make no mistake, the 27-year-old is a genius on the pitch.
He makes defenders look silly, gliding past them with ease. The goals he scores against teams combine dribbling with sweet finishing. Take the goal he scored against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup earlier this season; he tore the defence to shreds and scored the winner at the Anfield Road end, sending the Chelsea fans into a state of delirium.
He has that ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck and dominate it. He’s an outstanding player who has the potential to take the title of best in the world once a certain two players in Turin and Catalonia hang up their boots. He’s one of the best. Whether he is the third best player on the planet is a matter of opinion because football, as a sport, is full of opinions, but Hazard should definitely be in the running for that title of ‘best of the rest’.