Eden Hazard: Why Chelsea forward deserved his FWA award

Eden Hazard

Adam Bate on why FWA Footballer of the Year winner Eden Hazard got his vote...

The chants of "boring, boring Chelsea" that rang around the Emirates Stadium last month and the subsequent debate it has inspired, make it clear that not everyone is enamoured by the newly-crowned champions. But the critics need only set their gaze on the Chelsea No 10 to be reminded of the flaw in the argument. Eden Hazard is not boring.

The esteemed Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano passed away earlier this month at the age of 74 and recognised better than most the conflicting urges of artist and artisan that exist in the modern game. Rarely is that struggle - and the potential benefits it can bring - more apparent than when watching Hazard's role within Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team.

"Organised not to facilitate play but to impede it, the technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose a soccer of lightning speed and brute strength," wrote Galeano in his magnificent work Soccer in Sun and Shadow. "A soccer that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring.

"Luckily on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee, and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom."

Eden Hazard wins the PFA Player of the Year award
Image: Eden Hazard won the PFA Player of the Year award at the weekend

Hazard is that rascal. Mourinho's magician who has elevated Chelsea far above the rest in this season's Premier League. While some might dwell on the power of John Terry and Nemanja Matic, others will highlight the additions of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas as the crucial components in the team's success. But to do so is to underplay the singular quality of the best footballer in England.

Having already been named PFA Player of the Year, Hazard is a deserved winner of the FWA Footballer of the Year award, a prize given to "the professional player who by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the footballer of the year" in the words of Football Writers' Association co-founder, and former Arsenal forward, Charles Buchan.

Imaginative

Hazard has shown his quality throughout the season, and his contribution was decisive in the final weeks of Chelsea's title charge. The Belgian scored a superb winner in their 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, and also struck the goal which handed the Blues the title as they defeated Crystal Palace by the same scoreline on May 3.

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And throughout the campaign there has been the dribbling - there have been 54 more of those than any other Premier League player. And there has been the end-product - only team-mate Fabregas has created more chances than Hazard this season, and Alexis Sanchez is the only other Premier League player to have assisted at least eight goals as well as scored that many too.

He is no imitator of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - "they have won things I haven't" - but nevertheless, there are times when Hazard is the only man on this island who appears capable of giving the impression he's playing the same sport. There is that control of the ball at speed and the low centre of gravity to evade the endless obstacle course of opposition arms and legs.

Progression

This season has not only marked his first Premier League title but also a genuine progression in Hazard's game. "He's not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team," said Mourinho, following Hazard's defensive negligence in their Champions League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid last May. That's changed. "His evolution has been fantastic," says Mourinho now.

His evolution has been fantastic.
Jose Mourinho on Eden Hazard

This season, the 24-year-old has shown he has the intelligence to gild his talents to the team as well as provide the moments of individual quality that have set Chelsea apart. From his stunning opener at Hull to the winner against United, there have been times in the run-in when it's felt as though Hazard has been dragging Chelsea over the line with his decisive interventions.

Hazard has been far more than a cog in the wheel. Instead, he has provided the fantasy in this Chelsea team. The wide-man who's a central figure. The precocious youngster who's already a leader. The devastating dribbler who's shown he can be a team man. Mourinho has been appeased but the rascal remains. One senses Eduardo Galeano would approve.

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