Although he may not be a name that has been pasted all over the back pages of the newspapers recently, don’t be fooled into thinking that the likes of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United have conveniently forgotten about the mercurial talents of SC Lille’s exciting young Belgian born midfielder Eden Hazard.
The youngster has been on the radar of many of European soccer’s elite clubs since he first broke into the Lille first team squad as a 16 year old. Blessed with great pace, skill on the ball and a clever footwork, he has been likened at times to both Cristiano Ronaldo and perhaps more accurately given his small stature, Joe Cole. Hazard is comfortable running with the ball at defenders and has the pace, skill and technique to get past them with unnerving ease. Allied to that is his calm demeanour in front of goal, a skill perhaps best demonstrated by the way he took this game saving penalty kick during a penalty shoot out for Lille against Toulouse.
The player himself has been linked strongly with a move away from Lille in the past and in addition to Arsenal and Manchester United showing an interest, Real Madrid’s advisor Zinedine Zidane has reportedly informed Real president Florentino Perez to make Hazard his next signing in the summer of 2010, while Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan are all said to be watching his development closely.
The player himself though has recently stated that while such speculation surrounding a big future at one of European soccer’s elite teams is flattering, he is happy to commit his future, at least until 2011, to Lille, where he can continue his development in the first team on a regular basis. Hazard stated recently;
‘Real Madrid and Arsenal are the clubs I dreamed of joining as a child.
‘If I joined Inter or Barcelona and could play football there then that would be very good, but Real and Arsenal are really great and play at a very high technical level.’
‘Zidane is my idol — the greatest footballer of his generation. If someone like that praises you, it is heart-warming.
‘But I must repeat that it is too early to move. In one or two years I will maybe make the next step.
‘Lille play European football, which is also a good opportunity for me. Getting minutes on the field is what counts from my perspective right now.”
With money in the bank, the comments made by Hazard must be music to the ears of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger as he seeks reinforcements to bolster his Arsenal squad and while this is not quite a “come and get me plea”, it is the clearest indication yet that Hazard’s long term future could well involve a spell in the Premier League, most likely with Arsenal.
The only sticking point would be the price. Hazard signed a three year deal with Lille and it is believed that Lille would only consider offers around the £26m mark and with the player himself asking clubs to give him at least one more year with the French side, before making a move, it seems unlikely that Wenger would commit such a large chunk of his transfer capital in one player.
Even for one as talented as young Eden Hazard.