Many people are touting Chelsea’s Eden Hazard as a future winner of the Ballon d’Or, and given his development in recent years that is certainly a possibility.
But if the Belgian play-maker ever wants to get his hands on that trophy, or get close for that matter, something needs to change. He needs to start scoring in Europe.
Hazard’s penalty in the first-leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain last week is their life-line; the away-goal that means a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening will see them into the last four.
But that strike was also a reminder of how rarely Hazard finds the net in European competition. In fact, in three seasons of Champions League action – three campaigns that have seen him make 19 appearances to date – the now-23-year-old has scored just twice.
Both those goals came this season, the strike in Paris following the final goal in a 3-0 victory away to Schalke in the group-stage.
While Hazard has lit up the Premier League this season, scoring 14 goals and setting up a further nine, he has failed to get close to that form in Europe’s elite competition.
Last season was even worse for the Belgian international, because while he set up three goals he failed to score even one, as Chelsea bowed out at the group-stage having faced Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjaelland.
Even before he came to Chelsea, during his only Champions League campaign at former club Lille, Hazard failed to score in six appearances despite netting 20 in Ligue 1.
And while he did set up two goals for the French side in their return to Europe’s top table, that paled in comparison to the quite remarkable 22 assists he provided in the league that season.
When you consider that Hazard also failed to net in Lille’s Europa League campaign in the 2010-2011 season, despite making seven appearances, it is clear something has to change before Hazard can truly be talked of in the same breath as the game’s modern-day greats.
In short, two goals (just one from open-play) in 26 European matches is simply not good enough for a player of his quality.
Hazard has shown domestically that he has huge talent and an eye for both a goal and an assist, but it is time he took that form into the Champions League; and what better time to start than against PSG in the second-leg?
After all, Chelsea need at least two, and the majestic Belgian is their most likely catalyst for what would be a famous comeback.