Following his hattrick last weekend, LS Sport examines Jose Mourinho’s claim that Eden Hazard is currently the best young player in world football.
YES – Euan Cunningham
I believe that in terms of shaping, controlling and exerting his will on games, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has a good case for being the most important young player in the world to his club side.
While others definitely have as much potential, and may in time realise it, I would say that at the moment Hazard is the one who wins the most games on his own. The recent top-of-the-table clash between Manchester City and Chelsea, in my opinion, proves my point.
Hazard was instrumental in pretty much all of the Blues better moments, using his stylish dribbling and forceful counter-attacking to forge a path upfield and give the beleaguered Chelsea defence a few moments respite. He was arguably man of the match, and not many would suggest anyone else as Chelsea’s player of the season so far.
Taking on the increased creative responsibility after the freezing out and sale of Juan Mata, the 23 year old Belgian has already scored more goals than he did in the whole of last season, and with roughly 20 games to go he can be reasonably expected to add heavily to that total.
Compared to his competitors, young men such as El Sharaawy of AC Milan, Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool and Julien Draxler (the young German who Arsene Wenger tried to prise away from Schalke), Hazard is at the minute the most likely of these players to win a game on his own, produce a moment of individual quality which determines a match’s outcome.
In the Premiership, his competitors for the young player of the year award probably include the man-mountain Romelu Lukaku, Jack Wilshire, and Man United’s last hope Adnan Januzaj. While all of these players are unquestionably talented and will go on to be giants of the game, none of them have been as consistent as Hazard this year.
In my opinion, Hazard at the moment is the most important young player in the world to his team, a title he shares only with one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s very few errors; the former Manchester United starlet Paul Pogba of Juventus.
NO – Jamie Kirby
As ever in a Jose Mourinho press conference, the ‘Special One’s’ sense of the months gone by appears to have evaded him once again.
Upon announcing that Eden Hazard is currently the best young player in the world, following a sensational hat-trick at Newcastle, many critics too would have found it hard to look back at the array of young talent around the world and see many better.
Yet while Hazards recent form has been sparkling, a run of eight good games is not enough to warrant such a label.
Even ignoring the fact that Hazard is 23 – straddling the border between young and peaking players in the modern game – there are many just in the Premier League who would rival him for this title.
If not interrupted by injuries, the consistency shown by Aaron Ramsey and Daniel Sturridge surpasses that of Hazard’s season so far.
Up until Christmas, exempting great displays at Sunderland, Cardiff, and West Brom – each who have occupied relegation spots for a time this season – the Belgian was decidedly average in both performance and goal return.
Even after this period, Hazard’s preference for games against lower-calibre opponents has been apparent. In games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham – of which there have been eight so far this season – he has managed just one goal and no assists. Exempting the recent victory over Man City, in which he was magnificent, Hazard has been largely absent and ineffective.
Even within his own team, while Jose cites Hazard’s effectiveness on the wings as a reason to keep him wide, the Belgian has failed to establish himself in his favoured number 10 spot, while another young player, Oscar, has been preferred all season.
While making the case for Pogba, Gotze, Strootman, Verratti and Alaba from foreign leagues would be fun, I argue that Hazard has not done enough to significantly differentiate himself from any of these players.
Saying that, the second half of this season could be a chance for Hazard to really establish himself in the Premier League, and the World Cup this summer will allow the rest of Europe to see how much he has grown.
Image courtesy of the Telegraph