‘As we approach the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12, the Sports Unbiased Crew will be releasing guides to help make better sense of what you watch as the world’s best soccer players converge on Brazil this summer. Check in regularly as we preview the eight groups, 32 teams, and key players that will play an integral role in determining the next world champion.
With so many world-class players on their national side, Belgium are considered by several experts as dark horses for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. No other player best exemplifies this new golden generation than Eden Hazard, who plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League. Still just 23 years of age, the attacking midfielder established himself as one of the top players in the league, finishing second to Luis Suarez for the PFA Player of the Year award. His pace, creativity, passing, and technical ability have drawn comparisons to top players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. In his homeland, many believe that he has the potential to be the best Belgian player since the legendary Vicenzo “Enzo” Scifo.
Hazard is now one of the most sought after players in Europe, with Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain reported to be very interested in the Chelsea player. With Belgium expected to make a deep run in Brazil this summer, the talented Hazard will definitely be a player to watch.
Before Going Pro
Hazard was born in La Louviere into a football family (his parents were both footballers) on January 7, 1991, the eldest of four children. At the age of four, he joined local football club Royal Stade Brainois. He spent eight years there before moving to Tubize. It was at Tubize where he was noticed by a Lille scout, who recommended to the French club to offer him a contract. Hazard’s parents accepted the offer and their son was off to France.
Hazard joined Lille in 2005, where he spent the first two years in their youth system. In May 2007, at the age of 16, Lille signed him to his first professional contract. After a few months playing for the reserve team, Hazard made his professional debut in a league match against Nancy, appearing as a second-half substitute. He would spend the rest of the 2007-2008 shuttling between the first and reserve teams, but was called up permanently the following season.
By the end of that season, he had become a regular starter on the squad. He won the Young Player of the Year award in both 2009 and 2010, gathering interest from several high profile European clubs. Hazard’s role on the club continued to increase with that of his talents. In 2011 he helped Lille capture both the Ligue 1 title as well as the Coupe de France. It was Lille’s first league title in 57 years, and their first double in 65 years. Hazard was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year that season – the youngest ever to win the award. He would win the award again in 2012.
On June 4th 2012 Chelsea paid over $53 million for the Belgian midfielder, beating out fellow English clubs Manchester United and Manchester City for his services. He scored 13 goals in all competitions and helped Chelsea win the 2013 UEFA Europa League. He would blossom even more in his second season under manager Jose Mourinho. He won the PFA Young Player of the Year award and finished second to Luis Suarez for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Hazard represented his country in both the under-17 and under-19 levels. He played for hosts Belgium in the 2007 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship, leading them to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Spain. His performance was so impressive, that many of the locals began comparing him to Belgian football legend Enzo Scifo. He also played in the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where Belgium were eliminated after group play.
Hazard made his debut with the Belgium senior team on November 18 2008. He scored three goals in nine appearances during Belgium’s 2014 World Cup qualification.