Next up in Goal.com's countdown of the best players of 2010-11 comes a young Belgian star who is attracting interest from all of Europe's big hittersWelcome to the Goal.com 50! In this special series, Goal.com editors worldwide vote for the top 50 players of 2010-11. We count down to the announcement of the winner on August 21 with profiles of each and every player who made it into the top 50...
Eden Hazard strengthened his reputation as one of the brightest young talents in the European game last season, playing a leading role as Lille claimed their first Ligue 1 crown in over 50 years.
Though sometimes classed as a playmaker, the Belgian was primarily used on the wing by head coach Rudi Garcia, where his direct running style was of the type that excited fans, posing many Championnat defences questions that they found too difficult to answer.
|"There's little doubt that he's a future star. He's very quick, has a lot of individual class and I'm convinced that he'll become a great player."
- Zinedine Zidane
Having grown through the youth academy of the northern outfit, Hazard made his mark on the first team as a 16-year-old in 2007. Less than four years later, he had grown into the star attraction of France’s best team, with rumours of greater things to follow, as virtually every major European club credited with an interest in him.
|MOMENT OF THE SEASON
| LIGUE 1:
MARSEILLE 1-2 LILLE
|In a fixture billed at the time as a league decider, Hazard gave Lille the upper hand early on with a sizzling strike from long range than picked out the top corner of the home side's net.
He would primarily occupy the left-sided offensive berth in Lille’s fearsome attacking trio, which also included Gervinho and Moussa Sow. Versatile enough to be able to switched around the forward line, he would play in every single one of LOSC’s league matches, scoring a career-high seven goals in the process.
Hazard’s willingness to dribble with the ball has earned comparisons to Lionel Messi, and while the 20-year-old is, like the rest of the footballing world, not on the same plain as the Argentine, there are certainly shades of the South American’s style in his game. Self-confident and technically slick, the winger’s low centre of gravity and injection of speed made for an impressive combination that defences hated having to cope with.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Belgian’s game, though, was his ability to make a decisive contribution at a clutch moment. An assist to Tulio de Melo three minutes into stoppage time versus Arles prevented Lille from being stifled to a frustrating pre-Christmas draw, but it is goals against Nancy, Valenciennes and, most spectacularly, Marseille that will be the longer lasting memories of Hazard’s campaign.
Over the summer, speculation has once again linked the La Louviere-born player to a multitude of clubs, but in a rare display of loyalty and maturity, the attacker has elected to stay one more season with Lille, in which he aims to enjoy his first taste of Champions League football, as well as see the opening of the club’s new 50,000-seater stadium.
The early signs are that 2011-12 could be every bit as fruitful for the thrilling youngster as the last. In the Trophee des Champions match against Marseille in Tangier, Hazard displayed his trademark footwork and speed to score a fine goal in an incredible 5-4 defeat; the kind of individual exploits that fans have grown accustomed to from the talented wide man.
|"Self-confident and technically slick, the winger’s low centre of gravity and injection of speed made for an impressive combination that defences hated having to cope with."|
Over the course of the next year, he will be given the chance to test himself against some of Europe’s best defenders, and it would be little surprise if he were to come through with flying colours, earning himself a move to one of the game’s leading clubs. This season will be all about the affirmation of his prodigious talent.
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