After yesterday's dominant yet fruitless display, it seems fairly clear to me that Chelsea are likely to continue with the major reshaping of their team in the summer transfer window. Ancelotti seems to like players with technical ability, and we seem to be in the market for players who can provide width or play as the "tip" of the diamond. We're likely to hear about bids over the summer for Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, and recently we've been linked with 20 year old Belgian Eden Hazard.
Hazard is a 5'7" attacking midfielder who is listed as left footed, but seems to prefer his right from everything I've seen. He's capable of playing centrally or on either side of the midfield, and also as a wing player on either flank. He's currently playing for Lille in the French top flight and has been a regular starter for the club since the age of 18. He's also a regular starter for the Belgian National team, having made 17 appearances for the first team prior to his 20th birthday. Hazard is very highly regarded around Europe, and has often been tipped to be Arsene Wenger's first choice to replace Cesc Fabregas when he inevitably leaves to rejoin Barcelona (in all likelihood this summer). He's also been heavily linked to Liverpool, and it will be interesting to see what their finances look like this summer. After the jump we'll take a closer look at Hazard and I'll have a few short videos for you.As mentioned earlier, Hazard is a very versatile player. He's at his best when he's playing in a role that allows him freedom to move around the pitch, drifting from the center to the wings and back. Because of this, he'd be an ideal fit for a club like Chelsea that can provide both a solid holding back to protect him and other versatile midfielders in more attacking roles that cover a lot of ground. Here's a little highlight reel which will hopefully give you an idea of his skillset, which is quite similar to that of our own Gael Kakuta:
One thing really worth noting in that clip is that he seems equally cofortable on either the left or right, and appears to prefer his right foot for crossing into the box or shooting. Because of this, he may be an ideal opposite for Gael Kakuta, and would really be solid placed next to Ramires (whose skillset seems a perfect compliment). Here's another slightly older clip, which highlights many of the things Hazard was doing when he first became a hot commodity:
This clip also highlights his technical ability and versatility. You can see he always has an idea of what's going on around him. You also get glimpses of two other traits in which Hazard is well above average, his pace and balance. The nice thing with Hazard is that he always appears to be under control regardless of what he's doing on the pitch or how fast he's moving. As for his weaknesses, he's not particularly noted for his defensive ability and his size would be a question moving from France to the Premier League. Like most players his age, there will certainly be questions about how he will adapt to such a higher level of competition.
All in all, he's a very similar player to Alexis Sanchez whom we've also been linked to. I think we're unlikely to add both, but I'd Hazard a guess (no pun intended) that we land a young player who fills this type of role this summer. Between the two players, I'm torn over who I'd prefer. Sanchez is definitely the better player at this point, and has played against higher level opposition making him a safer bet to be world class here. Hazard is more than two years younger though, and may come at a significantly lower cost. He'd also qualify as a U21 next season, allowing us to keep additional depth around. One thing is certain however...our being linked to Hazard is likely to drive up the cost of a transfer if clubs like Liverpool or Arsenal decide to add the young midfielder. Anytime we are able to do that, it is a good thing for the club.