"Hi my name is Steven and I’m a Hazardholic"
(aka Belgian Spur)
I’ve been suffering from this for about as long as Eden has been playing but lately the thought that there’s an off chance he’ll be soon wearing the lilywhite shirt is getting too much for me. That’s why I took the liberty of sharing my emotions and thoughts with you. Consider it the first step in the process of rehab after he’s had his picture taken in an Arsenal (wash my mouth out with soap) shirt.
I haven’t been in such a miserable state since the first time I saw a then almost unknown Zinedine Zidane (the bloke that needs to learn how to dish out a decent head butt) led Bordeaux to the EL finals in 1996. It’s not by accident that the very same Zidane is one of the greatest admirers of the small Belgian prodigy; he once said he’d sign him at Real Madrid in a heartbeat. We now know that there is hype surrounding Hazard but is he really worth all the buzz?
Let me try to give you a little insight in to why I am suffering from this unfortunate mind melt that is seriously clouding my otherwise very balanced view on football players.
First and foremost I must remind you all that I am from that tiny little country that produces the best beers this world has ever known. We are proud to have that because we have little else to be proud about. When it comes to football we have had some very grim years filled with humiliating defeats for both clubs and country. This was mainly due to a lack of decent youth development, only focusing on big, strong and mainly Caucasian players and forgot all about the 101 of modern football ; technique, pace and that bit of trickery.
A few years back this all changed and we are now slowly seeing the results of that. We now possess players that posses a decent first touch. Players like Dembele, Kompany and Fellaini showed the youngsters of all races that the skills they learned on the streets can help them become pro footballers. There is still plenty of work to be done but at least we can see our national team play attacking football again. We just lack an experienced striker and two good fullbacks.
Then at the tender age of 14, Belgium (and the scouts of the world) discovered Eden Hazard when his move to Lille created some controversy in Belgium. The Hazard clan decided to leave the record winning champions Anderlecht for the grim north of France. The clan has always had a very positive influence on their son , with dad having been a decent lower league footballer and determined to help his sons avoid the mistakes he made during his career. Not in the same way that crazy mums that put their girls through beauty pageants or various crappy talent shows because of missed careers, but as a level headed coach and advisor that knows how the football world works.
He took his sons to France because he believed that the French system of youth academies is unrivalled in Europe. They focus on football and schooling and they try to develop players both technically as mentally.
Even now, in their search for a new suitor, they keep repeating that money isn’t the main thing. It’s all about the right club for him to evolve and develop. He truly wants to be great and will probably think very hard about who will offer him the best environment to shine. If you do the math that means only L’Arse and Spurs qualify for what he wants. And what does he want? He wants a club that will play Champions League, has a tradition of playing attacking football and a coach that is known for his man management skills. If we both offer what Lille want for the young star and we both qualify for the CL, I’am afraid Wenger will be the winner in this battle. He has been following and visiting Hazard for a few years now. But it’s football and we all know nothing is written in stone and in the end he might do a Nasri and just sign for a City or a Chelsea. I for one would be very surprised and fooled by the aura of sincerity that the Hazard clan has upheld for so long if this particular eventually transpired.
So what makes Eden so special, you ask? The answer to that question is not easy because he has the potential to be a world beater thanks to the combination of speed, agility, technical skills, self-confidence and the ability to open up every game with a moment of brilliance. In addition, he has always resisted big money offers because he wanted to evolve as a player and show loyalty to the club that gave him his first chance in league football. But it’s not only about skill, he is also very strong for such a small lad and has adapted in a league that is known for its aggressive defending. The concept of an “African tackle” is not new to anyone that follows the French league.
I know that we have seen these kind of flavour of the month players in the past (Gio anyone?) but when I see people comparing Hazard to Taraabt I tend to get stabby. It is true that both players have the tendency to be in love with the ball and showboating a little more than they should but apart from that there is no way that Taraabt is fit to tie Hazard’s shoelaces. At the age of 21 Hazard has already won three individual prizes (youngest player ever to win Player of the Year in France) in a league that is the main supplier of foreign EPL players and he’s also led his team to their first double since 1953. Adel on the other hand…
So will he succeed in the EPL and become a world class player, I don’t know. He rarely shines when it comes to the biggest games and he’s had some problems with our NT coach Leekens. When the Dutchman Dick Advocaat was our NT coach (for a brief period of time) he said that Hazard could become one of the best players around if he could just learn how to put in that extra defensive shift and add efficiency to his game. But if efficiency is the main aspect of his game that needs improvement than it’s not a major worry, 25 goals and 39 assists in 131 league games (according to Wikipedia) as an attacking midfield player/winger isn’t too shabby at all.
He still has a lot to learn and for that he needs to leave the cocoon where he currently finds himself living in. At Lille he knows the environment and what is expected of him. He’s like a very expensive superbly nurtured Koi fish in a very small pond in a neglected garden. A thing of beauty compared to his surroundings but will he be as pretty when he needs to stand-out in a luxurious pond in London?