Chelsea’s Eden Hazard versus Belgium’s Eden Hazard
A lot of fans, journalists and pundits were surprised by Eden Hazard’s performances at the World Cup in Brazil. Belgium made it to the quarter finals and were eliminated after losing 1-0 against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Belgium achieved their goal but they probably would have reached the semi-finals with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens and Thibaut Courtois were some of Belgium’s best players at the World Cup. Eden Hazard at the other hand only impressed for one minute against Algeria and briefly against Russia. We all know how important Eden Hazard can be for his club but it just doesn’t seem to work the same with his national team.
Marc Wilmots made it widely known that Hazard is one of his best players. Before the tournament the national coach of Belgium was hoping that the 23-year-old had kept the best for the World Cup in Brazil, myself included. Hazard said that he would be ready to shine in Brazil but like we all know such things don’t come on command. The former Lille star had a mediocre World Cup much like many of his teammates at Stamford Bridge.
Last season, Eden Hazard impressed once again in the Premier League with Chelsea. The Belgian winger/playmaker was involved in a lot of Chelsea goals, scoring 14 and assisting seven proving himself as one of José Mourinho’s most trusted players. Mourinho has his own view on how football should be played but there’s no doubt that it’s because of him that Eden Hazard became a better player last year – Mourinho keeps him sharp in his interviews and by having a lot of private talks with his player.
Marc Wilmots is, for me personally, more a people manager than a tactical coach. He helps his players through a World Cup qualification round or big tournament by recounting his own playing experience to the players – having gone to four World Cups. The magic just doesn’t seem to be there between player and coach despite Wilmots having more belief in his number ten more than anybody else and enjoying a much more dynamic relationship than Hazard did with Georges Leekens.
Wilmots’ lack of tactical experience as a coach could be the main problem for Hazard’s performances. Hazard is a player gifted with technique and flair but only performs well if his team fulfil all their tactical tasks. Rudi Garcia and José Mourinho have the experience and Hazard improved in every single month under these two top coaches.
It’s harsh to pin the blame for Hazard’s underwhelming international performances entirely on Wilmots. The attacking midfielder helped his team a lot defensively, a task he isn’t particularly suited to, but let them down in attack. Arjen Robben of the Netherlands has shown us at this World Cup that experience will make Eden Hazard a better player and more important for his country but let’s just hope that we don’t have a similar story to that of Luc Nilis, a fantastic player but he never showed his full potential with the national team.
Hazard is also a player who likes to play with other technically gifted players. That’s why I think that Divock Origi and Adnan Januzaj would help Hazard to this end. Both players like to play at the same tempo and would likely be on the same wavelength as Hazard. For example at club level Hazard excels when he plays together with Oscar.
Eden Hazard scored 23 goals in 69 matches for Chelsea, most of his goals under Mourinho. It didn’t take him long to become one of the stars in the Premier League after he moved from Ligue 1 side Lille OSC. The Belgian attacker learned a lot in his first season at Stamford Bridge with Mourinho then asking him to score more goals the following season… so he did. He also won the PFA Young Player of the Year award and finished as runner-up in the PFA Player of the Year award, after Luis Suarez to cement his place amongst the elite players of an elite competition and leave nobody in doubt of his talent.
Hazard made his debut in 2008 for Belgium against Luxembourg when he was just seventeen years old, replacing Wesley Sonck in the second half of the match. Since then, Eden Hazard played 51 matches for Belgium and only scored six goals – a paltry return given the talented players around him and his own ability. In Belgium’s strong qualification campaign he could never convince and it was often Kevin De Bruyne, former Chelsea player, who was by far the best attacking player for Belgium.
I still believe Eden Hazard will shine for Belgium in the future. Where better can he show that than in his second most loved country, France. With some luck he can start EURO 2016 in his old stomping ground at Lille and banish the demons from his mind with a successful tournament for Belgium.