Chelsea winger Eden Hazard was expected to star for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, but so far he has failed to meet the expectations.
The former Lille star headed into the tournament on the back of a brilliant season for Chelsea in which he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
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There were suggestions that given Hazard’s progress in the past two years and his talent, he could one day surpass Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.
After all, Ronaldo is 29 and Messi is 27, while Hazard is 23 – he does have time on his side.
However, so far in Brazil, Hazard has failed to hit his stride and has shown his brilliance only in flashes; he has been nowhere near Messi’s level at the World Cup, as demonstrated by the Opta Stats below.
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Hazard will come up against Messi on July 5 when Belgium take on Argentina in the quarter-finals at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasília.
Looking forward to that contest, the Chelsea star played down comparisons between him and Messi, but was quick to point out that he has time to reach the Barcelona forward’s level.
‘I admire players like Messi’, Goal.com quotes him as saying. ‘Today I am not at their level. I still have time, although it’s not my goal. My goal is the semis’.
Hazard was speaking after his side’s narrow but thrilling 2-1 extra-time victory over the USA in the last 16 at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
Once again, the attacker failed to perform to the best of his abilities, both when he was deployed on the left and down the middle.
Instead, it was Hazard’s former Chelsea teammate Kevin De Bruyne, also 23, who was more creative.
At 23, Hazard still has time to improve and develop his game, but it is unlikely that he will ever reach the levels of Messi or Ronaldo. The Argentine had won the Ballon d’Or when he was 22, while Ronaldo was 23 when he clinched the prestigious individual award.
Since then, both Messi and Ronaldo have taken their game to a whole new level - a level that Hazard is unlikely to reach.