The Belgium star scored on his debut for the Blues in a pre-season victory over Seattle Sounders, and showed promising signs ahead of his first season in English footballCOMMENT
By Charlie Scott
Eden Hazard spent the whole of last season fluttering his eyelashes at Europe’s elite clubs as he painstakingly decided where he wished to ply his trade for the 2012-13 season onwards.
At one point he claimed Tottenham were the favourites to sign him, but most within the game believed it would be either Manchester United or Manchester City who would secure his signature.
As the saga rumbled interminably on it was, eventually, the appeal of Chelsea that turned out to be too good to resist, a decision heavily influenced by Roberto Di Matteo’s side’s outstanding Champions League victory over Bayern Munich.
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On May 29 the 21-year-old wrote on Twitter: "Good afternoon guys. I made up my mind. See you later. Thanks," and then proceeded to wait several hours before publicising the name of his future employers.
"I'm signing for the Champions League winner," he tweeted later on that afternoon. And with that, one of the most infuriating transfer sagas in recent history was finally over.
Two months down the line and the former Lille sensation has finally made his debut for his new club, and gave those he toyed with over the past year a chance to see if all the hype surrounding his move was justified.
The Belgium international did not disappoint with a headline-grabbing performance which saw him notch on his debut as Chelsea eased to a 4-2 victory over Seattle Sounders in the opening match of the World Football Challenge pre-season tournament.
There was an element of luck to Hazard’s finish, as his right-footed shot deflected off the Sounders defender Jhon Hurtado and past the despairing dive of their goalkeeper Brian Meredith, but the same could not be said about the play that preceded the goal.
After latching on to a flicked header from fellow debutant Marko Marin, Hazard showed an impressive burst of pace down the left to leave Zach Scott trailing in his wake, before drifting into the area, cutting on to his right, and firing into the back of the net.
There was more than just a debut goal for Hazard against Seattle though. His acceleration and outstanding ball control were breathtaking at times against a side who are unlikely to come up against such talents too often, and after yesterday’s showing are probably quite thankful for that.
Yes, it was only a pre-season friendly, and yes the standard of the opposition was not of the highest calibre, but it was an encouraging start nonetheless, and there were certainly signs that Hazard could be one of the Premier League’s brightest stars this season, a sentiment echoed by the player’s manager after the game.
“He can have a great impact in the Premier League next season. He has great qualities and you can see that every day in training,” said Di Matteo following his side’s comfortable win.
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“It is good for Marko and Eden to score in their first game for the club and it was good to see they have a good understanding with their new team-mates."
Hazard spent much of his debut cutting in from the left-hand flank, but his proficiency with either foot makes him equally adept at playing down both wings or in a more central position behind a main striker.
Chelsea fans will hope the player settles, and quickly, as amid the brilliance there is also a hint of controversy about the 21-year-old.
After being substituted in the 60th minute of an international friendly against Turkey in June of last year Hazard stormed straight to the dressing room, and was later filmed eating a burger from a stand outside the stadium, while the match was still going on inside.
The whole Chelsea hierarchy will be praying he does not repeat such a stunt at Stamford Bridge.
Burgers and tweets aside, the future looks bright for Hazard, and if his debut performance today was anything to go by then Premier League defences will not be excited by the prospect of facing the mesmerising youngster.
They have been warned.