- Squad No: 17
- Position: Forward
- Age: 22
- Birth Date: Jan 7, 1991
- Birth Place: La Louviere, Belgium
- Height: 1.70m
- Weight: 69 kg
Eden Hazard’s rise over the past couple of years has been meteoric, with the Belgian starlet undergoing a remarkable transformation from precocious Lille youngster to Ligue 1 sensation and one of the most sought after players in Europe. The fleet-footed attacker has drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but perhaps the greatest compliment has been the willingness of the Belgian press to proclaim that Hazard has what it takes to fill the enormous boots left by the legendary Enzo Schifo.
Born into a footballing family, Hazard’s youth career took in Belgian sides Royal Stade Brainois and Tubize before he settled at Lille as a 14-year-old in 2005. Two years later and the teenage prodigy had made his debut in the French top flight, going on to make a handful of substitute appearances in the 2007-08 season. The following campaign was a real breakthrough year, though, as he went from impact sub to first-team talisman in the space of a few months, with his sparkling performances earning him an international debut for Belgium and the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award.
The plaudits continued to roll in and Hazard was tied down to a new four-year contract with Lille in an attempt to stave off interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs. With five league goals and eight assists, Hazard became his side’s creator-in-chief and his influential displays saw his reputation continue to grow around the continent.
Hazard’s start to the 2010-11 campaign was troubled as he was publicly criticised by Belgium national team coach Georges Leekens, who accused him of being lazy in training, and he was also dropped by Lille coach Rudi Garcia. He didn’t start a league game for Lille until November but ultimately re-established himself as an integral member of the first-team.
After years of speculation, and competition from clubs including Manchester United and Manchester City, Chelsea sealed his signature in the summer of 2012.
Strengths: A defender’s nightmare, Hazard can dribble at pace and, like Lionel Messi, he is 5ft 7in and has a low centre of gravity that helps him breeze past opposition players. He has an eye for the spectacular and has scored some memorable solo efforts.
Weaknesses: Hazard’s work-rate has questioned by his club and national team bosses. His strike-rate is also somewhat erratic and, while he creates plenty of goals for others, he must start to score more himself.
Career high: Becoming the first non-French player to win the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year Award in 2008-09, before achieving something that the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry never managed by winning it again in 2009-10.
Career low: Suffering penalty heartache at the hands of Spain in the 2007 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship. Hazard’s Belgium were hosting the tournament but went crashing out in the semi-finals after losing a shootout to a Bojan Krkic-inspired Spain side.
Style: A fearless, explosive attacking midfielder who can change the game with a turn of pace or a dribble.
Quotes: “Eden is technically gifted and very fast. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed. He can become a great footballer, he is a star of the future.” France legend Zinedine Zidane gives Hazard a ringing endorsement.
Trivia: Hazard comes from a football family. His parents, Thierry and Carine, were footballers in Belgium, and his younger brother Thorgan is a Chelsea team-mate.