Eden Hazard is the man of the moment.
His summer began by completing what was the most hotly anticipated transfer of the year, finalising his “dream move” to Real Madrid in a deal that could exceed £100 million.
On Friday, he was revealed as the new FIFA 20 cover star, following in the footsteps of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Reus.
It is only the second time in eight years that neither Ronaldo nor Messi have appeared on the cover. Over that period, the two superstars have consistently rated as either 94 or 93 – the better player often determined by which one is on the cover.
With Hazard on the cover of this year’s game, he is surely the best-placed to usurp the old guard.
RealSport looks at whether it will happen.
A season with Chelsea on his back:
Last season, Hazard was amongst five players rated 91, only behind Neymar (92), Messi and Ronaldo (both 94).
The first question to ask is whether Hazard did enough last season to earn a boost from 91.
After all, it wasn’t as if Hazard earned his Madrid move as a direct result of his performances in the last year. Rather, it was the result of years of scintillating performances from the Belgian.
Hazard’s contribution during his two title-winning seasons at Chelsea were perhaps more memorable than last season, but that is because he was the star of well-functioning sides. Last season he hasn’t necessarily been worse, he has simply been the sole spark in a less threatening Blues side.
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In fact, last season, he contributed more goals in the Premier League than in any of his other seasons at Chelsea. Scoring 15 goals and setting up 16. He had a hand in just under half of Chelsea’s 63 Premier League goals last term.
Hazard in the Premier League
The graphic above speaks for itself – in a year where Chelsea were offensively blunt, Hazard was more productive than ever.
A Ronaldo replacement?
During Hazard’s presentation as a new Real Madrid player, he said to the cameras in Spanish, “I am not a Galactico yet, I hope to be one day.” Hazard’s modesty may have denied the media and fans the line they were craving but didn’t fool anyone into thinking he wasn’t.
The truth is that Madristas have been starved of Galactico arrivals of late – the player they last spent over £40 million on was James Rodriguez back in 2014. In the wake of a disastrous season by Madrid standards, fans were more desperate than ever for a superstar arrival, and in Hazard, they have got it; considering the circumstances, his arrival is perhaps the most consequential since Cristiano Ronaldo.
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But is he the man to step into Ronaldo’s shoes?
While there are many facets of the Portuguese that Madrid have lacked of late – his leadership, mentality and the big, big moments – the most gaping hole he left was the sheer amount of goals he scored each season. Hazard cannot replicate that – it’s not in-keeping with his style of his play.
But that’s not to say that Hazard won’t make Madrid’s attack more potent. He’s an incredibly well-rounded player, whose standout trait is his ability with the ball at his feet.
It’s no coincidence that he was fouled more than any other player in the Premier League during his time at Chelsea – his feet, balance and agility are so good that he is a nightmare to tackle. He’ll draw defences out of line and need to be double marked – creating much more space for the Madrid forwards than they saw last season.
So while Hazard won’t hit Ronaldo numbers, he is certainly the man to galvanise a flailing, Ronaldo-less attack.
The 92 club – more exclusive than you think
With a stellar season, headline move and a place on the FIFA 20 cover in the bag, it’s safe to assume that Hazard’s rating won’t drop from 91. The table below shows how it has crept up over the 90-mark over the past five seasons.
|FIFA Edition||Eden Hazard Rating|
|FIFA 18||90 (boosted to 91 in January)|
|FIFA 17||88 (boosted to 89 in January|
But to break the 92-barrier is more difficult than you would think. In fact, over the last five years, if you were to discount Messi and Ronaldo, only Neymar and Luis Suarez have surpassed 91. It may well be FIFA’s method of creating distance between Messi, Ronaldo and the chasing pack.
Considering Suarez is now over the hill, and Neymar’s last two years have been disrupted by injuries, Hazard has the best case to be the world’s third-best player.
With all the above factors considered, this writer believes that Hazard will be boosted to 92 in the upcoming edition of FIFA 20, where he’ll be probably be joined by Neymar and maybe even fellow cover star Virgil van Dijk.
And what of Messi and Ronaldo? EA cannot justify not having them as the two best players in the game without causing an uproar, simply because they are still the best two players in the world. They should, however, be dragged closer to the chasing pack with ratings of 93.
But surely now, it is only a matter of time before Hazard, or someone else, takes Messi and Ronaldo’s crown.
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