The Belgian superstar enjoyed seven glorious years at Stamford Bridge and there will be a gaping hole following his transfer to Real Madrid
How do you possibly replace a superstar like Eden Hazard? This is the daunting question that Chelsea are pondering after their Belgian superstar completed his transfer to Real Madrid.
Ever since arriving at the club in 2012 from Lille for £32 million, Hazard has been Chelsea’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He has been directly involved in an incredible 191 goals in 352 appearances.
These 110 goals and 81 assists have led to six major honours, the most recent of which was the Europa League after his brace helped Chelsea to a 4-1 win over rivals Arsenal in Baku.
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The Europa League was also his first big trophy for the Blues in 2013. This was followed by the Premier League and League Cup double in 2015 and then another league title in 2017. An FA Cup triumph in 2018 completed a clean sweep of trophies in English football for Hazard.
“I will sign for the Champions League winner,” Hazard tweeted in 2012 after seeing Chelsea heroes John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba claim ultimate glory in Munich against Bayern.
Those three players are all in the debate when discussing Chelsea’s greatest ever player – and Hazard is also in the same equation now.
“He is a legend, look at what he achieved at the club,” Drogba himself told Goal. “He won the league twice, won the FA Cup, was named Player of the Year. We are talking about Eden Hazard. Please!
“He brought something that we hadn’t seen for such a long time. The closest player I can compare to him is Gianfranco Zola. The talent to dribble, to make the difference and dribble one versus one. That’s Hazard!”
Drogba is currently second in Chelsea’s all-time list for Premier League goal involvements behind Frank Lampard. Third-placed Hazard – with 139 EPL goals and assists – would have almost certainly surpassed Drogba had he stayed at the club.
However, Hazard can’t be judged solely by numbers. On the pitch, he was an artist. From his perfect first touch to his inventive through passes and delightful curling shots – he was a joy to watch.
But it is Hazard’s unstoppable dribbling ability that will perhaps be most missed by Chelsea and the club’s fans.
He attempted and completed more dribbles in the Premier League than anyone else since he joined the club – and he did so with an end product – creating a league high of 595 chances in that period.
His most impressive goals in a Chelsea shirt were arguably two stunning solo strikes at Anfield against Liverpool. There have also been hugely significant goals – none more satisfying to home fans than the curling equaliser in 2016 that ended Tottenham’s chances of denying Leicester City a fairytale Premier League title success.
Manchester United have also been on the receiving end of Hazard’s mastery. The Belgian’s pace and trickery resulted in Phil Jones conceding the penalty – subsequently dispatched by Hazard – that decided the 2018 FA Cup final.
At the age of 28, Hazard is now at the peak of his football career. His 21 goals and 17 assists last season are his best ever return for a single campaign. He also completed more dribbles last term than anyone in Europe’s big five leagues – including Messi.
And his former team-mate, Cesc Fabregas, believes the ex-Lille star will get even better in La Liga with Real Madrid.
“He will kill it. He will be brilliant. I have no doubts,” the Spaniard told Goal. “He is 28 – it is his last chance to have this.
“After seven years of winning a lot at Chelsea, I think it is time to try something else.”
There seems little doubt that Hazard will be a huge star at Real Madrid playing under his idol Zinedine Zidane – and he will now have the chance to challenge for the Ballon d’Or.
However, he departs west London as an all-time Chelsea great. And just like Madrid struggled to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona will struggle to replace Messi one day, Chelsea face a mammoth task trying to substitute their Belgian superstar.