In the summer of 2012, Eden Hazard was entangled in a three-way tussle for his signature. The three clubs involved were Manchester United, their nouveau-riche cross-town rivals City, and Chelsea, who eventually won the race for his signature.
Hazard chose to sign for the newly crowned champions of Europe ahead of Manchester City, who had just claimed their first Premier League trophy. United were still on the lookout for a player to finally fill the boots of Cristiano Ronaldo, who had left for Real Madrid three years prior. Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced that Hazard was that man, but the Belgian had other ideas.
Since his arrival in England, Hazard himself made it no secret that he aspired to reach the same world-toppling heights as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He showed enough in his first season to prove that he could indeed become a world-class superstar. At just 21-years old, he adjusted to his new environment seamlessly, as he scored 13 goals and assisted a further 24.
Everything did not go to plan though, as Chelsea finished sixth in the Premier League and were eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage. They did manage to go all the way and win the Europa League, but that was not exactly the kind of European glory Hazard would have been dreaming of when he joined.
Now captain of the Belgian national side, Hazard has definitely matured in his time at Stamford Bridge, but things have not entirely been rosy. After finally enjoying title success in 2015, he went through a very bad slump the following season. It wasn’t until April 2016 that he scored his first goals of the 2015/16 season.
His record of five trophies (two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup and a Europa League trophy) validates his choice of club. However, there has been a growing sense that at 27, he might never live up to the enormous potential that he originally demonstrated. That seems to have changed in the last few months.
The Sarri effect
The arrival of Maurizio Sarri appears to have triggered something in Hazard, who is now truly in the form of his life. He has seven goals in just eight matches so far this season, and is playing and influencing games at an entirely new level. It would be unrealistic to credit this whole transformation on Sarri, given that Hazard was quite impressive for Belgium at the World Cup over the summer. That said, there can be parallels drawn between the football philosophy of Sarri and that of Roberto Martínez, who manages Hazard at international level.
As Hazard finally begins to consistently show the kind of form he is capable of producing, there is consensus that he might have finally arrived at the level he always dreamt of. Comparisons are already being made to the record-breaking season that surprise star Mohamed Salah of Liverpool enjoyed last season. If Hazard produces similar returns this term, it might not be long before he is on the move once again.