Eden Hazard only came to the attention of many in England after his excellent performance for Lille against Liverpool in the last 16 of the Europa League. In France, his reputation has been growing since his breakthrough into the French Club’s first team last season. Born in Belgium, Hazard played for both Royal Stade Brainois and AFC Tubize before being picked up by Lille on a youth contract. An extraordinarily skilled and technically gifted player with pace to burn, the French club knew they had something special and they signed the player professionally at 16 in May 2007. It was not long before he made his debut for the first team though and in November 2007 he came on as a second half substitute against Nancy in Ligue One.
He had to wait for the following season to establish himself fully in the first team though. Under new coach Rudi Garcia, Hazard took the 2008/09 French League season by storm, and became the youngest scorer in the French club’s history when he scored his first senior goal for the club against Auxerre in September 2009. The young Belgian midfielder has never looked back since and he subsequently scored 6 goals in 36 appearances for Lille in his first full season in the first team. A true teenage wonderkid, Hazard became the first foreign player in French league history to be named Young Player of the Year.
This campaign, he has looked to build on his breakthrough season in French football and he has already scored 10 goals in a year which has seen his stock rise and rise. He has been an instrumental player in Lille’s Europa League campaign scoring four goals in two rounds to help the French Club qualify for the group stages of the European competition. His goal against Liverpool in the last 16 of the tournament put Lille in a great position going into the second leg at Anfield 1-0 up but he couldn’t prevent his side dropping out of the competition, despite having an excellent chance in the second leg after cutting right through the centre of the Reds defence.
Superlatives for the young midfielder are coming from all quarters and French legend Zinendine Zidane no less stated recently that Hazard is a ‘star of the future.’ His youth coach at Lille, Stephane Adam, goes even further on how great Hazard could be:
“You have to keep perspective as he is still very young – but he is like Lionel Messi. [He shows] the same quality to take on players, not very big, very quick, able to take on two or three players in a small space, the ability to score and create goals. He is not as good as Messi yet, but he has the talent to become this kind of player. He is the kind of player you have got every 10 or 15 years. He has got a very rare talent. I think he has been blessed by God.”
“Blessed by God” and a player you get “every 10 or 15 years” are weighty statements and Hazard has a lot to live up to. It is a shame then that today Hazard has expressed his desire to play for Arsenal or Real Madrid, rather than Liverpool. Rafa Benitez was said to be interested in the player and hopefully the player could be persuaded to trade France for Merseyside in the summer, if that is, the Reds can match Lille’s £20million valuation.