The current economic climate in Premier League football is characterised by mind-boggling wage demands, extortionate transfer fees and outrageous agent fees, but in a world where good value signings are consistently elusive, Roman Abramovich managed to conclude a shrewd deal in 2012.
That deal was, of course, the £31.5 million decision to secure the services of Eden Hazard from Lille after Chelsea fended off interest from their European rivals. After joining LOSC Lille as a 14-year-old in 2005 Hazard managed to earn his first senior appearance in Ligue 1 just 2 years later as a 16-year-old, and he managed to make 13 Ligue 1 starts during the 2007/08 season.
It was clear from an early age that Hazard was a unique prospect with enormous potential to grow into one of the world’s great players, and his move to Chelsea in 2012 gave him the platform from which to establish himself in that particular bracket.
His final season for Lille saw him notch 20 goals and provide 18 assists from 38 Ligue 1 appearances. With a record that staggering it’s rather surprising that Chelsea managed to sign him for just £31.5 million, and the fact Tottenham signed Moussa Sissoko for the same fee in August 2016 and Everton signed Richarlison for an initial £3.5 million more in July 2018 serve to demonstrate how the market has developed.
Whilst Hazard’s arrival at Chelsea was somewhat expected following months of intense speculation, it’s fair to say his impact has shaken the footballing world. He enjoyed an impressive debut season in the Premier League by scoring 9 goals and providing 14 assists and, barring a dismal 2015/16 campaign which was tarnished by major managerial issues, his consistency has been a pivotal component of the success the Blues have enjoyed in the past 6 years.
From 213 Premier League appearances Hazard has found the net on 74 occasions and provided 48 assists, making him the club’s third top-goalscorer in the league only to Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. But it’s not only the decisive impact Hazard has in the final-third which makes him the world class player that he is: his ability to seamlessly glide through the heart of tightly-knit defensive units with ominous ease, utilising exquisite balance and blistering pace all the while, is a talent which is only rivalled by the very very best in world football.
Roman Abramovich has invested in a multitude of exceptionally talented players down the years with deals for the likes of Michael Essien, Didier Drogba and Claude Makelele to name just a few, but there’s no doubt that the deal for Hazard stands out as his greatest masterstroke in just over 15 years of ownership.
£31.5 million was certainly a substantial transfer fee in the context of its time but, considering his value in the current market, it represents an absolute steal in hindsight.
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