Bastian Schweinsteiger and Co.’s tears hadn’t dried yet. At FC Bayern they were in displacement mode, the Allianz Arena had long been cleaned up so that there were no clues left from the “finale at home”.
And then, a few days later, Eden Hazard posted what might be his most famous tweet ever.
“I’m signing for the champion’s league winner,” he wrote on May 28, 2012. I’m signing for the champion’s league winner. And thus announced his move to Chelsea, who had dramatically defeated Bayern Munich on penalties a few days earlier.
It was not yet the time for Hollywood-ready video productions to announce a transfer. A tweet like Hazard’s was a highlight.
And it was fitting for Hazard to announce the move from OSC Lille to Chelsea himself – and in this way. He has always stood for extravagance. Far before he rose to become one of the best players in the world in London.
Zinedine Zidane wanted to bring Eden Hazard to Real Madrid back in 2010
In seven years he has won two Premier League titles, two Europa League titles, one FA Cup, one Premier League Player of the Season and four Premier League Team of the Year awards. He has been named Chelsea Player of the Year three times.
All measurable successes, but Hazard was special not because he produced statistics but because he played so flamboyantly. He was a player you went to the stadium for. A player who, the next day, was like, “Woah, did you see that?!” And he didn’t just start at Chelsea, but in Lille.
He was so good there that Zinedine Zidane, in an interview with the To mark spoke about the then 19-year-old Hazard in 2010. He would bring the boy to Real Madrid with his eyes closed and Florentino Perez should have a look at the boy. Nine years later, Zidane was Hazard’s manager – at Real Madrid. Since then, however, it no longer has the shine of earlier days.
Hazard: drunk hat-trick in the last Lille game
No longer the joy of playing that he had alongside Mathieu Debuchy, Yohan Cabaye, Gervinho, Rio Mavuba and later Dimitri Payet or Joe Cole. It was a talented side but Hazard was the best. He taught his opponents to fear. He was so good that even when drunk, he was better than everyone else.
Hazard scored a hat-trick in his last game for Lille against AS Nancy (4-1). The first of his career. Teammate Mavuba said he organized a party the night before the game. Not only did Hazard kick well, he also drank heavily.
“We decided to have a drink. A little drink that dragged on a bit,” recalls Mavuba, who ended his career in 2019: “Eden was still drunk the next morning. Nancy hadn’t even played 30 minutes since Eden had already scored a hat-trick. The guy hadn’t even slept, he’d been drinking all night and had a hat-trick in 30 minutes. We all looked at each other and said this guy is the real deal.”
Dream goals against Marseille and Liverpool
It was his goals 48-50 in the 194th game for Lille. 53 templates were added. But again: this hazard shouldn’t be measured by statistics, even if they were just as exorbitant in Lille. He was the man of special moments.
Like in March 2011, when he scored that dream goal against title rivals Olympique Marseille. 35 meters goal distance, the opponents stick to him, but he shoots with his supposedly weak left foot in such a way that Steve Mandanda has to process the goal crouching on the ground.
There were such moments with all regularity, so that well before his move in 2012, all well-funded clubs made eyes at him. There is no need to list them – just all of them. Liverpool were added when they brought the Reds defense to the brink of helplessness in a Europa League game.
Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher and Emiliano Insua had no idea how to stop Hazard. He created chance after chance and sometimes had a cheeky smile on his face. In the 83rd minute he converted a free kick to victory. The French gazettes did not hold back their superlatives. why? He earned the collective obsession of his skill.
“Eden, is this all true?” “Yes!”
They were obsessed back in 2006 when Hazard played for AFC Tubize in Belgium. You didn’t have to have good scouts to realize that there was a fine example kicking. Hazard left home and headed to Lille.
He knew he was the best there too and it didn’t take much effort to play here. But in Lille they were bothered by the calmness demonstrated in training and in the game. Michel Vandamme, then head of the Lille Academy, summoned the parents to talk about their son.
The Lille based newspaper northern flash once reported on this parents’ evening. When Vandamme complained about the lack of motivation, “his mother turned to him and said, ‘Eden, is this all true?’ “And he said, ‘Yes, it’s true.'”
Of course there were no consequences. How can you send a boy like that away? So you made the best of it. And he was disarmingly honest, too. Always. In the conversations, but also in his way.
Slap in the cabin
He didn’t pretend because other people liked it that way. Even if there was a beating for it. When he joined the professional team in Lille for the first time in 2007/2008, he also let the seasoned professionals know that there were no suitable youngsters coming.
“Hazard walked out on his first practice session with his socks pulled down, his shoelaces undone and no shin guards,” Lilles told Gregory Tafforeau at the Sun: “He then trained as if he were an old hand at the club. That really annoyed the older players.”
In a fitness training session it came to a scandal. Lille star Franck Beria slapped Hazard in front of the assembled team. An improvement? no “Two days later he took another good hit from Nicolas Plestan. The boy cried,” said Tafforeau. Plestan must have hit harder because the message got through. “After that we noticed how he changed his behavior,” says the former Lille professional.
For Beria and Plestan to pat each other on the back for their audacity to physically humiliate someone, perhaps thinking Hazard turned pro thanks to them, would be fatal. Untied shoelaces – they also existed at Chelsea, like his former teammate Loic Remy once did GATE and SPOX told.
“During my first training session at Chelsea, he came out with his shoelaces undone and greeted me,” said Remy, adding: “I thought the intensity of training at Chelsea, with such a big club, would be very high. I sat down a lot under pressure because I wanted to give 100 percent. Then I looked at Eden: he wasn’t defending well in that session, he was losing a lot of balls. At the end of practice I asked him, ‘This is how you train?’ And he just said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m the boss.’ But not in an arrogant way that sometimes comes across when he speaks.”
Where is the journey going?
Hazard always remained a rascal. Sure, he grew up at some point. But the rascal from La Louvière, where he was born, lives on in him to this day.
It’s a drama that this Eden Hazard was never able to ignite that sense of bliss at Real Madrid that he did for years at Lille and Chelsea. Perez had the exceptional player cost 115 million euros in the summer of 2019. Today there is talk that Hazard will have to leave in the summer for Real to have room for Kylian Mbappe in the salary budget.
It seems possible that he will change in the summer. At 31, he’s not old enough to say a farewell to him. A buyer should be found. At Chelsea and Lille, who are now facing each other in the Champions League round of 16 (9 p.m. in LIVETICKER), he has never been forgotten.
Even a return campaign was thought out loud. The memories of glorious times are too good. He was far too good to forget about. So why not bring it back now? If that’s the case, we’ll find out for sure on Twitter: below @hazardeden10.