It’s been almost six years since a diminutive Belgian still buzzing from French title success in 2011 strolled into Stamford Bridge from Ligue 1 outfit Lille and, almost instantly, became a Chelsea hero.
Eden Hazard, a maestro with the ball at his feet and one of Chelsea’s best players, has scored 69 goals in 208 appearances for The Blues since signing for approximately £32 million in 2012.
Having won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, English League Cup and the 2013 Europa League during his time in south-west London, he’s became something of a club legend.
But he has to leave Chelsea this summer.
Confused? Don’t be. The time is right for Hazard to take his skills elsewhere, otherwise, his career will start to stagnate at a club beset by uncertainty both at board level and in terms of appointing a new manager to replace Antonio Conte. If that even happens.
Chelsea’s Premier League title defence was a disaster last season, and it wasn’t the first time during Hazard’s stint at the club.
The same post-title blues (pun intended) afflicted the team after bagging the trophy in 2014-15; nobody could have accounted for Leicester’s amazing rise the next season, but Chelsea’s 10th-place finish was a million miles off the trail.
Last year, they finished 5th, five points behind Liverpool in 4th and therefore five points off the Champions League places.
A player of Hazard’s undoubted skills must be tearing his hair out at the prospect of plying his trade in the Europa League again.
At this point in his career, he should be lighting up Europe’s top table every year, not going backwards.
Missing out on Champions League footy isn’t the only reason why Eden should venture away from Stamford Bridge this summer.
He’s already been heavily linked with serial winners like Real Madrid over the past few years, and it must keep the Belgian awake at night to wonder what it’d be like to play alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo regularly.
Hazard has achieved almost everything at Chelsea, and a move to Madrid, PSG, or maybe even Real’s La Liga rivals Barcelona, would represent progress for a player who, being honest, barely looks like he wants to be in London at times.
Though the Premier League is one of the best divisions on the planet, Hazard, at 27 years old, may look at Madrid’s recent trio of Champions League medals and feel left out.
Is a move away from Chelsea on the cards? For Eden’s sake, let’s hope so.
It may be the only way he fulfils his potential.