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Eden Hazard's career at Chelsea

The official Chelsea website pays tribute to Eden Hazard following the news a deal has been agreed for his transfer to Real Madrid.

The move brings to an end Hazard’s glittering Chelsea career. It is not only the raft of collective and individual honours the Belgian racked up during his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge that will live long in the memory; his skill, speed and smile will never be forgotten by anyone who had the good fortune of watching him at work in a Chelsea shirt.

Debut season

Where to start? The first six minutes of Hazard’s Premier League debut seems as good a place as any, for that was all the time it took for the then 21-year-old to serve notice of his mercurial talent and thrilling wing play. On a sunny August afternoon in Wigan, he first assisted Branislav Ivanovic with a defence-splitting pass, and then he was too skilful for Ivan Ramis, who brought him down for a penalty converted by Frank Lampard.

When was Eden Hazard’s Premier League debut? 
19 August 2012 vs Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Hazard creating, Hazard being fouled: Premier League defences might have been given an early warning of the young man’s capabilities, but over the ensuing seven years they showed very little sign of working out how to legally stop him.

In all he was fouled 638 times in the league, over 40 per cent more often than anyone else in the same period. His willingness to quickly get back to his feet despite the darkening shade of his ankles and calves was a refreshing trait that earned him plaudits on and off the pitch. And he may have received regular knocks, mostly in the final third, but since 2012 Hazard still managed to create a league-high 595 chances for team-mates.

Hazard’s Stamford Bridge debut and first goal

He marked his Stamford Bridge bow against Reading by being fouled for a penalty and setting up another goal, Lampard and Ivanovic once again the beneficiaries. Three days later, with Newcastle in town, he stroked in his first Chelsea goal from the spot. Hazard would prove to be reliable from 12 yards in the years to come, scoring 26 of the 31 penalties he took for us. Famously his headed rebound from a saved spot-kick against Crystal Palace in May 2015 clinched the title - more on that later.

Hazard and Mata: an 'irrestible relationship'

Hazard quickly forged an irresistible relationship with Juan Mata, the silky Spaniard who had arrived a year prior. The pair’s link-up play, be it unpicking packed defences or launching counter-attacks, was a key factor in the Blues’ oft freescoring nature in 2012/13. Successes over Norwich (4-1), Tottenham (4-2), Manchester United (5-4), Aston Villa (8-0), Southampton (5-1) and Stoke (4-0) spring to mind. Hazard would later cite Mata as the player he most relished playing alongside, theirs a meeting of footballing minds and mastery.

Breathtaking goals

Hazard’s eye for the spectacular was in evidence in those handsome victories over Aston Villa and Stoke either side of Christmas, and then in March at Manchester United (sparking an FA Cup comeback) and at home to West Ham.

His major contribution to us reaching the Europa League final was a sensational display off the bench at home to Sparta Prague, capped by a magnificent injury-time thunderbolt that booked our spot in the last 16. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sustained at Aston Villa in our penultimate league game ruled him out of the successful Amsterdam showpiece, but not before he had set up Lampard’s record-breaking goals.

The only slight on his first year was a red card picked up in bizarre circumstances in a League Cup semi-final at Swansea in January, but he returned to action in top form and played a major part in our strong finish to the campaign, the longest in Chelsea history.

Hazard's debut season numbers

In all Hazard appeared 62 times, scored 13 goals and assisted a further 19. It hadn’t taken him long to show just what a special player we had on our hands, and his performances received wider recognition, too, as he was named in the PFA Team of the Year.
 

Hazard’s second season - 2013/14

Hazard went up a gear in his second season and finished it by being voted the Chelsea Player of the Year for the first time.

It was obvious why. Littered among some jaw-dropping individual performances were a spate of big-game goals. Hazard counted Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and PSG among his victims in 2013/14, and the Belgian’s brilliance ensured we went close both in the Premier League and the Champions League. He scored 17 goals in 49 games.

Hazard’s best performance for Chelsea?

Hazard’s imperious display in a 1-0 away win at eventual title winners Man City is worthy of mention, as is his maiden Chelsea hat-trick in the game that followed against Newcastle. But it is the Magpies’ North-East rivals Sunderland who bore the brunt of arguably - and the debate would continue long into the night! - Hazard’s best-ever performance in a Chelsea shirt.

The setting was the Stadium of Light on a chilly winter’s evening in December 2013. The Blues won a thriller 4-3, but all the attention afterwards was on Hazard. At times it felt like he was playing a different sport to everyone else on the pitch such was the magic he conjured up that night, including an assist and two solo goals so spectacular some Sunderland fans could not help but applaud them.

Hazard ended the year without collective honours, but he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year to go with his Chelsea award, as well as being voted into the PFA Team of the Year again.

Hazard's 2014/15 season

Things would get even better for Hazard, and Chelsea, in 2014/15.

He was quite simply the best player in the country as we won the title with three games to spare and also lifted the League Cup. Starting all but five of our 54 games in all competitions, Hazard’s form never dipped below outstanding, be it during the goal-laden early months of the campaign or in the second half of the season, when our play became more pragmatic as injuries and suspensions set in.

Our new no.10’s consistency over the course of 90 minutes caught the eye, and manager Jose Mourinho identified this dependability even in moments of strife for the team as being critical to our success in 2014/15. It was something the winger worked hard at improving.

Hazard had fun linking up with new arrivals Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. Indeed the combination play between that trio, as well as Oscar and Willian, was some of the finest witnessed at Stamford Bridge. When it wasn’t coming off, Hazard would more often than not provide the spark, as proven by his heavy involvement in four consecutive narrow away victories between February and April, the type that win league titles. He scored at Villa, West Ham and Hull, and then set up Fabregas’s late decider at Loftus Road.

The following week Hazard netted the only goal against Man United at the Bridge, and fittingly it was his header in our next home fixture, against Crystal Palace, that sealed the title.

Hazard's numbers in 2014/15

He finished with 19 goals and 11 assists in all competitions. He was voted the Chelsea Player of the Year for the second season running, and his exceptional output was also acknowledged by his peers (Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year, PFA Player of the Year) and the media (FWA Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season). Unsurprisingly no Chelsea player has ever won so many individual accolades in one year.

Hazard's 2015/16 season

Hazard nor the team could match those levels in 2015/16. Injury and a surprising lack of confidence affected the Belgian, and he had to wait until April for his first open-play and Premier League goals.

Still, in true Hazard style he managed to produce the campaign’s most indelible moment, a stunning equaliser at home to Tottenham that was celebrated as much in the East Midlands as it was at the Bridge, and was voted our Goal of the Season.

How many times did Eden Hazard win the Chelsea Goal of the Season award?
Three: 2015/16 (v Tottenham), 2016/17 (v Arsenal), 2018/19 (v Liverpool)

A brilliant solo effort at Anfield followed and suggested Hazard was back to his best, and he carried that form into Euro 2016 with Belgium, then our second title-winning campaign in three years.

Hazard and Antonio Conte

Having initially wobbled under new boss Antonio Conte, our success was borne out of a change in shape to 3-4-3. Hazard sprung to life following its introduction and formed a potent partnership down the left with Marcos Alonso. He scored seven goals during the club-record 13-game winning run that propelled us to the top of the table before Christmas, a position we would never relinquish. Among them were memorable strikes against the two Manchester clubs.

In the new year Hazard continued to thrive and scored one of his favourite Chelsea goals against Arsenal in the February, a solo effort that began on the halfway line and ended with Arsenal defenders strewn across the turf and former team-mate Petr Cech beaten. It was voted our Goal of the Season.

Hazard was superb as we closed in on the title, netting twice in a 2-1 win against nearest challengers Manchester City. His impact was not only restricted to the Premier League, though, and the Belgian fired home a sweet goal - his first at Wembley - in our 4-2 FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham.

Unfortunately the final against Arsenal was lost, but by then Hazard had his second Premier League winners' medal, and the day after Wembley he was named Chelsea Player of the Year for the third time.

Hazard’s 2017/18 Season

An injury sustained on international duty over the summer delayed his return to action, but he was soon back in the team and back to his best. Hazard’s positioning in 2017/18 varied, and he proved equally adept in his traditional wide-left role, alongside the main striker up front, or leading the line on his own depending on the occasion.

The Hazard final

For the FA Cup final at Wembley against Man United, Hazard was paired with Olivier Giroud in attack and produced the decisive moment of a tight contest. It was vintage Hazard: an inch-perfect first touch followed by a burst of speed that took him clear of the red-shirted backline. Phil Jones could only foul him as he bore down on goal, and he picked himself to tuck home the resulting penalty. His maiden FA Cup title was the perfect way to mark his 300th Chelsea appearance.

Belgium at the 2018 World Cup

At last summer’s World Cup in Russia, Belgium captain Hazard was voted the second-best player at the tournament following a series of scintillating displays that helped his country reach the semi-finals, where they were only narrowly beaten by eventual winners France. In all Hazard played 72 times for Belgium while a Chelsea player, scoring 28 goals.

Hazard’s last season

Hazard’s final year in west London was his most successful in the Premier League in terms of combined goals (16) and assists (a league-high 15), and a major factor in our final third-place finish. At Watford on Boxing Day he became the 10th Chelsea player to reach the landmark of 100 goals with a predictably cool one-on-one finish. A penalty he won later in that game proved the winner.

That was one of many Hazard highlights during a genuinely outstanding individual campaign. Others included a hat-trick, scored against Cardiff, a pair of assists in a home win against hitherto-unbeaten Man City, and two of his very best goals in a blue shirt.

How many hat-tricks did Eden Hazard score for Chelsea? 
Two: against Newcastle in 2014 and Cardiff in 2018

Both were solo efforts that showcased his ability to dribble at high speed and in tight spaces; both left a trail of bemused opponents in his wake. The first, late on in a Carabao Cup fixture against Liverpool, was even more satisfying because it settled the game; the second, at home to West Ham, was equally eye-catching and finished with a similar flourish. In the end, the Anfield strike edged the Goal of the Season vote.

As in 2014, 2015 and 2017, Chelsea fans chose Hazard as their Player of the Year, and his fourth success was a record-breaking tally in the prize’s prestigious history. His team-mates voted for him as their Player of the Year, too, so he achieved the unique feat of winning all three club awards in the same season.

One final flourish

His last kick of a ball at Stamford Bridge was the winning penalty in the shoot-out success over Eintracht Frankfurt, and thrillingly Hazard kept one more majestic performance up his sleeve for the Europa League final that brought the curtain down on his Chelsea career.

The fear Hazard struck in Arsenal’s defence was clear from the off, and he was very much at the heart of things as we ran riot in the second half. Having teed up Pedro for 2-0, he scored two goals of his own, the first a calm penalty past Cech, the second rounding off one of the best Chelsea moves of the season.

Chelsea career achievements

They were his sixth and seventh goals versus Arsenal, who joined Bournemouth, West Brom and Newcastle as the teams to have most often suffered at the feet of Hazard. More significantly they had contributed to further silverware for the club; he leaves having won two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

Hazard’s consistency

Analysing his impact during seven years of Premier League football, Hazard’s consistency stands out. Only David De Gea, by one, has played more games than his 245; and only De Gea, Hugo Lloris and his Chelsea team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta completed more minutes. He ranks fourth for goal involvements (85 goals, 54 assists) in that period, fourth for shots on target, and second for games won (145 at just under 60 per cent).

As well as topping the list for chances created and fouls won, Hazard also completed over 900 dribbles, almost 50 per cent more than the next player. Get Hazard the ball, and he would more than likely beat his man.

‘A true Chelsea legend, a serial winner…’

At Cobham day to day the charismatic Hazard was a popular and funny guy to be around, always cracking jokes with that trademark grin of his. On the pitch the statistics highlighting his impact are endless. The words from Fabregas sum up what it was like playing alongside him.

And to watch him from the stands or on television? Always a joy. The finesse of touch, the balance of body, the burst of speed. Guile, grace and goals, all delivered by an infectious personality whose appreciation for the beauty of the sport he so excels at burns bright.

It was the summer of 2012 when Hazard, the most coveted young player in the world, announced on Twitter he would be leaving his boyhood club Lille to sign for the Champions League winners, and since that night in Munich it is he who has been responsible for so many of our best moments.

Eden leaves a true Chelsea legend, a serial winner, and with our best wishes for the next step in his career.

By Rupert Cane

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