If there was ever a time that Premier League needed a global star to emerge from its ranks, now seems to be it, and there’s a very good chance that Eden Hazard of Chelsea, entering his second season in the league, will be the one to do it.
When you look across the league, you see good teams, but very few marketable stars on a global scale. It seems the Spanish league, PSG and Bayern Munich are a bit more efficient at grabbing the bigger names. It might not be the healthiest thing for football, but there’s no doubt that the overall quality and especially star power in the Premier League has taken a hit, regardless of if Gareth Bale is going to leave or not.
Hazard came in as a huge signing last season after pretty much being left with nothing to achieve at France before he was 21. He led Lille to a title in 2011 and on the next season, as Lille failed to repeat after losing too many key players, Hazard turned in an incredible individual season with 20 league goals and 15 assists.
The best player in the new Belgian “golden generation”, Hazard was often mentioned as the Belgian Lionel Messi or something of the sorts. But he’s good enough to bypass these comparisons, and even though some were slightly disappointing with his inconsistent debut season at Chelsea, and good enough to be praised and talked about without being referenced to other players.
Who is the biggest star in the league right now? Maybe Robin van Persie. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard would have made good answers two years ago. Fernando Torres had a very short run. Luis Suarez might be the league’s best player, but he shouldn’t be the face of the league.
Hazard fits the role of a symbol, and a star to follow. It has nothing to do with his leadership skills. It’s simply the kind of player he is. His goals in the preseason matches so far have nothing to do with it, but if the ending of last season is any indication, there seems to be something a lot more cohesive about Hazard’s play at the moment, which should materialize once the real season begins.
Hazard had an incredible start to last season, but once Roberto Di Matteo started playing Oscar in the lineup it seemed like the definition of roles between the three was slightly obscure, and Hazard was the one hurt from it the most. He was exiled to the wing, where it took him a long time to adapt and start performing at the same level as before.
After his suspension for “kicking” the Swansea ball-boy, things looked much better. For Chelsea, making an impressive (or good enough, at least) finish in the league, while winning the Europa League, as Hazard missed the final. His first season in England? Nine goals, 16 assists. For those expecting to see the second coming, it was a slight disappointment.
Yet it shouldn’t be. Hazard played in 62 matches last season, not including the internationals. Doing that for the first time as Chelsea went through an exhausting season is a sure way for an up & down campaign. Eventually, Hazard got out of his funk, and started producing goals or creating them at the rate he was expected to. Feeling a lot more prepared for Premier League life in 2013, Hazard isn’t just about to have a great season for himself; he’ll have a chance of becoming the biggest name in a league that’s looking for someone to bring back some of the glamour it has lost in recent years.