FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017: No.15, Eden Hazard
Antonio Conte has reinvigorated various areas of his Chelsea side, but none more so than with Eden Hazard. The Belgian was sluggish and uninterested in the season before the Italian’s arrival, but since enduring a fairly torrid Euro 2016 he's been a livewire in the Chelsea attack, winning the club’s player of the year award during last season’s ruthless stampede to the Premier League title.
This season, after a stop-start, injury-ridden first few months, he is threatening to raise his game another notch, linking more naturally with the quick-witted Alvaro Morata than he ever did with Diego Costa.
- Hazard has the best shot accuracy in the Premier League this season (69.2%), having hit the target with 18 of his 26 shots
Yet there remains something fundamentally and unavoidably frustrating about Hazard.
On his day he is an imperious, mesmerising, pretty much unstoppable attacking force. But that day comes around too rarely. He will be 27 in January, an age at which Cristiano Ronaldo had scored 238 club goals, Thierry Henry 182 and Luis Suarez 211. Eden Hazard is on 130, and is yet to break the 20-goal mark since joining Chelsea.
Admittedly that is a crude measure to impose on a multitalented attacker, but Hazard’s goal record stands as a solid demonstration of both how decisive he is when on form and how sporadically he asserts himself as a bona fide match-winner.
The raw materials – the Velcro dribbling, dynamite change of pace, genius disdain for lesser opponents – are all there, and when we see them functioning in tandem it’s an undisputable treat. But a treat is by definition rare. The challenge for Hazard now is to make it the norm.
Highlight: The two-goal vanquishing of Manchester City at the tail end of last season that took Chelsea seven points clear and canter into the final straight of a one-horse title race.
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