Eden Hazard, one of the best players of his generation, once captured the hearts of football fans with his amazing skills and solo efforts on the pitch. From his humble beginnings at Lille to his meteoric rise to stardom at Chelsea, Hazard seemed destined for greatness.
Unfortunately, life happened when he made a historic move to Real Madrid. In this article, we take a critical look at the rise and fall of Eden Hazard. We will also look at what caused his downfall and the challenges he faced along the way.
Early Life of Eden Hazard
Born in La Louvière, Belgium, Hazard’s parents were also both footballers. As a result, it is not surprising that Hazard developed a passion for football at a very young age. He is the eldest of four brothers, who all play football.
At four years of age, Hazard started his football career by playing for Royal Stade Brainois, a football club in his hometown, displaying his natural talent and ability at such a young age.
After spending eight years at Stade Brainois, Hazard moved to AFC Tubize. At 14 years of age, Hazard was seen as a child prodigy, and the spectators who watched him knew he was an exceptional player. It was when he was at Tubize that he caught the attention of scouts from Lille during a local tournament.
Having been impressed by his skills, Lille offered him a contract, and he moved to France to continue his football career.
Lille and early glory: A star in the making
The Belgian international joined Lille in 2005. However, Hazard struggled in his early days at Lille, finding it difficult to make the starting 11. After two seasons of him joining the club, his performances were nothing short of exceptional. It was at Lille that he came into the limelight, displaying exceptional balance, agility, and ball control.
Despite being young, he showed his ability to score goals, provide assists, and terrorize opponents with his dribbling skills. In the 2010/2011 season, Hazard was an integral part of Lille’s side that won both the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France.
His outstanding performances earned him the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award for two consecutive seasons, establishing him as one of the best players in the French league.
A Premier League sensation at Chelsea
Hazard’s brilliance attracted many European heavyweights, but it was Chelsea that was able to acquire his services in 2012. Immediately after he arrived at the West London club, he wasted no time in showing his mesmerizing talent.
In his debut Premier League match, he assisted Branislav Ivanović for Chelsea’s opening goal and later won a penalty, which Frank Lampard scored. That set the tone for what was to come.
Hazard’s debut campaign at Chelsea was kind of a roller-coaster, but a memorable one. After the team won the UEFA Champions Lague in the previous campaign, they exited the competition at the group stages the following season, setting an unwanted record by becoming the first UCL titleholder to exit the competition at the group stages.
They ended up third in their group, which earned them a Europa League knockout round berth. To that effect, they entered the competition in the round of 32, where they were paired with Sparta Prague.
In the second leg of the round of 32 tie against the Czech Republic side, Hazard showed his quality once again as he scored a late goal to give Chelsea a hard fought 1-1 draw, which saw them progress to the last 16 with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
On 11 May, 2013, the Belgian international assisted Frank Lampard’s brace against Aston Villa, which saw him break Bobby Tambling’s all-time goalscoring record for the club and virtually assure his side a Champions League place the following season.
Meanwhile, he sustained an injury in the same game, which made him unable to play in the Europa League final. His debut campaign at Chelsea ended with 13 goals in all competitions.
Teaming up with Juan Mata, Hazard formed a formidable partnership that was a nightmare for Premier League defenders. His technical ability, creativity, and quick feet allowed him to score goals, provide assists, and dictate the tempo of matches.
He was an integral part of Chelsea’s side that won the Premier League title in the 2014–2015 season and capped it off by winning the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award.
The fall and rise of Hazard: Challenges and resurgence
In the 2015/16 season, Hazard endured one of the worst seasons of his football career. Chelsea, as a team, had a dip in form under José Mourinho’s management. The Belgian was on a goal-scoring drought across 30 matches, which was his worst goal-scoring streak ever.
This unwanted record was attributed to Chelsea’s poor performance as a team, coupled with questions about his motivation and work ethic. Speculations about a potential move to Paris Saint-Germain further fueled doubts about his commitment to the club.
However, true to his character, Hazard bounced back the following season and delivered a memorable performance under Antonio Conte, leading Chelsea to 12 consecutive league victories.
In the 2016/17 season, he played a starring role in Chelsea’s Premier League triumph, contributing with goals, assists, and influential performances. His contributions were recognized with individual accolades, including the Premier League Player of the Season award.
An extraordinary FIFA World Cup performance
The 2018 FIFA World Cup made a remarkable impact on Hazard’s career as he captained a highly-fancied Belgium. The Belgian talisman was obviously a force to be reckoned with during the tournament, leading the Red Devils’ golden generation to a third-place finish, their best ever in a World Cup tournament.
London farewell: A maestro
After the FIFA World Cup, Hazard returned to club duties, where he delivered his best campaign to date. Whenever Hazard’s best ever season is being considered, what comes to mind for most people is the 2014/15 season, where he won the EPL title and the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award.
Yet, one would be surprised to know that his best season ever was 2018/19, where he amassed more goals and assists.
Despite not winning any domestic trophies in the 2018/19 campaign, Hazard’s performances in that very season were outstanding, as he topped the assists chart with 15 to his name.
Apart from individual accolades, he also helped the club secure a 4-1 win over Arsenal in the Europa League final, where he scored a brace.
Hazard, however, expressed his desire to leave the Blues after seven years of being there, saying he wanted a new challenge.
A fateful move to Real Madrid: Turmoil and injuries
Hazard made a much-anticipated move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Unfortunately, his time in the Spanish capital was plagued by a series of unfortunate events. From the offset, the Hazard battled with fitness issues, arriving at the club overweight and deficient in sharpness.
Constant injuries adversely affected Hazard’s valuable playing time, impeding his ability to make a significant impact even when introduced as a substitute. Ankle injuries, muscular setbacks, and even a battle with COVID-19 kept him sidelined for extended periods of time.
Injuries became a daily dose for Hazard until he totally became a liability for Real Madrid. Then the Spanish giants started looking for ways to get rid of him. On June 3, 2023, the club terminated his contract by mutual agreement, making him a free agent.
An illustrious career comes to an end
Last month, Hazard announced his retirement from professional football, bringing the curtain down on a career that blended moments of brilliance with challenges that tested his mettle.
The rise and fall of Hazard serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of sports and the enduring legacy of a player who, at his best, graced the footballing world with sheer brilliance and magic. While the playing days may be over, the echoes of Eden Hazard’s impact on the beautiful game will resonate for years to come.