No player has received more column inches than Chelsea’s Eden Hazard in the last few weeks, the reason being that the 23-year-old Belgian has undoubtedly been playing the best football of his career.
For someone so young he has already achieved so much, two-time French player of the year, league and cup winner for Lille and soon to be star of the World Cup in Brazil. This weekend the forward was a guest on Le Club on French channel beIN Sport, and he made it clear that he wasn’t even close to realising his football dreams. More importantly, he made it clear that his future didn’t include a move back to France with Paris Saint-Germain.
It has been a story that has refused to go away recently, and with PSG looking to making an assault on the Champions League, Hazard’s name was naturally brought up in connection with the Parisian club, but the Chelsea player was quick to distance himself from any sort of move.
“It's true that it's been a couple years since my name was associated with PSG. Why PSG? I do not know. But it is a great club, I hope they will win titles but, I'm at Chelsea and I'm happy. There has been no personal contact with me. Nobody has told me anything so for me there is nothing there."
Hazard was heavily linked with the Parisian club when it was clear he was set to leave Lille, but there was little chance of President Michel Seydoux letting his prize asset go to their league rivals, even if the player had suggested he would be interested in a move to the capital club.
“But I repeat myself, PSG, it’s a no! We do not know what can happen but I still have a lot to achieve with Chelsea".
Right now, Hazard has the footballing world at his feet. Jose Mourinho called him “the best young player in the world” and it’s hard to disagree at the moment. He is also likely to be in the running for the Premier League’s Player of the Year if he continues his current form and this has led to comparisons with Ballon d’Or winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
No one is yet putting the Chelsea star on the same level as Ronaldo or Messi, but it is an indication of how well he is playing that he is beginning to be included in the conversation, something that is only going to grow if he continues to perform so well at Chelsea.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was full of praise for Eden when asked about the Belgian’s ability, and it was the international coach that brought up the subject of Hazard becoming a future Ballon d’Or winner.
“Eden has evolved mentally, physically, tactically. Now he plays for the team. I have a special relationship with him because I love him very much. I dream of one day seeing him win the Ballon d'Or."
There is little doubt that Hazard has the ability to emulate Messi and Ronaldo by being crowned the best footballer in Europe, but if he wants to achieve this, he must continue to play with Chelsea in the Premier League. Playing in one of Europe’s biggest leagues, playing against some of the best players in the world will only help Eden develop, and playing under Jose Mourinho, in this environment will only help take him to the next level.
A move to Paris Saint-Germain in the near future would only limit his chances. Ligue 1’s reputation is far removed of that from the Premier League, and although PSG are likely to challenge for the Champions League for the foreseeable future, the level of weekly competition is not up to the same standard. Only playing against the best players and excelling and improving as he has will lift his status to that of Ronaldo and Messi.
“The Ballon d'Or? I'm working to get there. It was a goal when I was little, it has become a dream today. Being the first Belgian to get there, why not? It’s fun every day, every practice, every game."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a great example of why Hazard must stay in England if he wants to achieve his dream. The Swedish enigma’s play has been at the highest level since going the Parisians. He equalled Jean-Pierre Papin’s goal-scoring record and lifted PSG to the French title, but was still somewhat behind the La Liga duo in this year’s Ballon d’Or voting. It would be very surprising to see anyone playing in Ligue 1 lifting the individual award.
To realise his dream, to raise his game to the highest level, Eden Hazard has to stay at Chelsea. Under Jose Mourinho, playing against the best players every week, only the player himself can stop him accomplishing his dream of becoming the best player in Europe.
images: , © Ben Sutherland