Being labelled the next Lionel Messi is something which has become synonymous with any young player who has shown even the faintest glimmer of promise of maybe one-day achieving real likeness to the Argentinian great. However, it is a label which has been bandied around far too easily, has been handed out far too readily for anyone who may have a couple of good matches. All that does is cheapen the actual momentous presence that Lionel Messi himself has on the game, but while the diminutive Barcelona genius continues to shine and be the one to catch, has there ever been a more genuine candidate to match or even surpass Messi’s reputation, than Belgian star Eden Hazard?
Hazard was in high demand during the summer transfer period, and he looked to be on the brink of a move to English giants Manchester United, before European Champions Chelsea stole in to capture his signature. The deal cost Chelsea over £30 to get Hazard to move from French side Lille, where the player had recorded a league best tally of 15 assists and had also weighed in with twenty goals during the last French league season. That is the potential that Chelsea wanted to tap into and was why more and more people were sitting up and taking notice of Hazard.
At just 5ft 7” Hazard is one of the smaller players on the field, but like Lionel Messi, has tremendous balance, speed and dribbling capabilities. At just 21 years of age, the Belgian has been like a magnet to awards, taking the Ligue 1 Player of the Year title twice in a row, and prior to that had taken back to back Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year awards. So the only way has been up for Eden Hazard, and following his explosive season with Lille, the question that everyone wanted answered, was could his undeniable talent and skill translate over to the tough, physical rigours of the Premier League?
One criticism about Hazard during his short career, has been his work ethic during tough matches. It was reported that he would sometimes disappear when the going got tough, but early into the new Premier League season, Chelsea have not seen any of that. What the London club has seen though, has been more than mere flashes of the brilliance which has rightly earned Eden Hazard the praise of being touted as the next Lionel Messi. During his Premier League début for Chelsea, a 2-0 win over Wigan, Hazard set up the opening goal and had won his side a penalty inside the space of the first ten minutes.
He followed that up with another earned penalty in Chelsea’s second EPL match and had created another assists for Chelsea’s fourth goal in a 4-2 win over Reading. It has been a rapid rise to popularity in London for Eden Hazard. He took on the number ten shirt with Lille at the start of the 2010/11 season, setting himself up for an even more direct comparison with the great Barcelona number 10. Of course, Hazard has a long way to go to match the feats of Messi, who has an astounding 171 goals in 215 league matches with Barcelona. But Hazard is on the path and Chelsea will hope that in the end, it will at least be comparable.