Eden Hazard was criticised earlier this summer for the manner in which he played out his transfer. Chased by Europe’s top clubs, Hazard and his agent publicly played out the whittling down of potential destinations before announcing on Twitter, still teasingly, that he was to join the ‘European Champions’.
Reports in the Press at the time felt his behaviour in negotiating the transfer was indicative of a talented, young but also narcissistic 21-year-old with an ego to match Cristiano Ronaldo. Furthermore, speculation was rife of Hazard’s long list of demands that he was to command at Chelsea: joining Terry and Lampard as the club’s top earners; a guaranteed starting spot in a free role behind the striker with a tactical system to draw the best out of his asserted talents.
Chelsea were believed to have acquiesced to such stipulations but were willing to do so to capture the most-wanted young talent in Europe and signal their intent to push on as one of Europe’s major clubs.
Following the completion of the move however there has been little negativity in coverage of the player and Hazard has seemingly kept his head low and installed himself well at Chelsea. Performances in pre-season and in last weekend’s Community Shield have yet to fully exhibit his £35m talents but there have been glimmers of his potential to singlehandedly influence a game.
Encouragingly for Chelsea fans, Hazard’s comments after the Community Shield game given to French sports paper l’Equipe prove early preconceptions of the player as unfounded.
"I've already found what I came for in England - beautiful stadium, beautiful pitch and big atmosphere.
“I tried to do what I am used to do. Down to 10, I had to defend a lot and it was more complex. Beyond the result, I am happy with that first test. I felt at ease. We still have to sort out some details in attack but it will come. I am confident. I have adapted quickly.
"Playing playmaker or not? I have just arrived and the only important thing to me is to play - in any position. I would be even keen to play at left-back. There are a lot of talented players in that team. There is competition - it is the highest level."
The decision to come to England, it appears, is down to the characteristics of English football and the electrifying atmospheres it conjures. His defensive contributions last Sunday when Chelsea went down to 10 men evidenced his readiness to buy into the collective cause and his assertion that he would even play at left-back entirely negates claims that the former Lille player commanded a free playmaking role behind the striker in his contract negotiations.
Moreover, Hazard’s recognition that Chelsea’s attack is yet to function effectively, as well as an acknowledgement that at Chelsea he is at football’s highest level suggests he will work hard to refine his abilities and thus improve the team’s fortunes.
Underlining all his comments is his confidence, but not arrogance, and if the 21-year-old continues to display the same attitude Chelsea could have one of Europe’s most explosive players in their hands.
image: © BruceW