Former Newcastle and Blackburn Rovers striker Alan Shearer believes that Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is back to playing the best football of his career.
The ex-player is now a pundit on the BBC’s Match Of The Day show and knows a thing or two about watching good attacking football. He was impressed by Hazard’s performance in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Burnley at the weekend and believes that the Belgian is getting back to playing the sort of football that saw him crowned as the PFA Player Of The Year in 2015.
Hazard scored thirteen goals for the Blues during their title winning campaign of 2014-2015 and swiftly became one of the most important players of former boss José Mourinho’s team. He struggled for form at the start of the 2015-2016 campaign, however, and became the subject of hate for some Chelsea supporters as Mourinho came under pressure as manager.
Some sections of the fanbase felt that Hazard was not putting in maximum effort under the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ and took against him when the Portuguese manager was sacked by the club’s owner Roman Abramovich in December last year. Hazard began to re-find his form towards the end of the campaign, however, as interim manager Guus Hiddink led the club to a tenth place finish in the Premier League.
Shearer feels that he’s taken that form through the European Championships and into this season, with his goal in the match against Burnley at the weekend combined with his general all-round display proof that he’s back to his best. He said, “We are seeing that guy from two years ago. The first thing manager Antonio Conte realised he had to do was get him on side. He knows he’s the match-winner”.
former Chelsea player Ruud Gullit agrees with Shearer’s opinion on the Belgian.The Dutchman, who won the FA Cup as the Blues’ player-manager in 1997, feels that the 25-year-old has re-found his impressive form under the new manager. He said, “This was Hazard at his best, when he’s facing players one-on-one. This is Hazard when he has fun. I don’t want him to chase back”.
Gullit is another ex-player who understands the importance of strong attacking football. He won the Ballon d’Or and was named Dutch Sportsman Of The Year in 1987, was Chelsea’s Player Of The Year in 1996 and also won the European Championships with Holland in 1988.
Gullit believes that the signing of N’Golo Kante from the defending Premier League champions Chelsea has given Hazard a new lease of life. Kante, who was brought in for around £30 million in July, is an out-and-out defensive midfielder. According to Gullit this means that Hazard can focus on what he’s best at – attacking.
The Dutchman even compared Kante to a former Chelsea midfielder. He said, “Kante is like Claude Makelele. He’s always there when you need himHazard doesn’t need to track back anymore”.
The Belgian only netted six times in all competitions last season, with just four goals coming in the Premier League. He’s already notched up half of that tally this season and he’s only played in three games. It has led his team-mate Branislav Ivanovic to declare that he could well be the difference as the Blues look to secure another title win, this time under the management of the former Italy national manager Antonio Conte.
Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine the defender said, “Eden Hazard is for many people one of the best players in the world…Everyone can be looking to Eden sometimes, including the last month. And in my opinion he is the player that can decide the league, everything – and every game we play”.
Hazard has joined up with his Belgian team-mates as they look to banish memories of their poor performance at the UEFA European Championships in France this summer. Though Hazard himself had a good tournament the Red Devils were knocked out of the competition by Wales at the quarter-final stage and it led to the sacking of the then manager Marc Wilmotts. Former Everton boss Roberto Martinez has come in to replace him, bringing former Arsenal forward Thierry Henry in as his assistant manager.
Ivanovic hopes that Hazard can learn a thing or two from the former Gunner and feels that Chelsea could well go on to do something special if the Belgian is back to his best. He said, “Everyone hopes we continue get his performances from two years ago and with that we can do incredible things”.