Chelsea have signed Eden Hazard. There are no take backsies, no last-minute things to go wrong. We can all relax. The transfer saga is done. Let's try to recap it.
Although Hazard was known as a top young talent and was expected to wind up at a top team virtually from day one, the first mention of Eden Hazard in a front page article on We Ain't Got No History dates back to February 2nd, 2011:
Eden Hazard, on my shortlist of players-whose-jerseys-I-have-to-own-if-they-join-the-club, [is less established than Alexis Sanchez] but still a potentially brilliant target.
Ten days later, there were rumours that Chelsea had made an approach, which Lille got cranky at. Nothing was particularly close to happening all summer, with Hazard deciding to stay in France for one more season, but the rumours started to pop back up again in October.
On October 19th, Lille academy director Jean-Michel Vandamme set alarm bells ringing by saying that Hazard would be willing to stay at the club 'at least until the summer' and that Chelsea were the team most interested in acquiring him. Twelve days later, Hazard himself was quoted as saying that he wouldn't leave in Janaury - but that come summertime, he was moving away from Ligue 1. That set the stage for a long, long chase.
The strangest thing about the Hazard saga wasn't its length, however - it was the very public way in which it was all carried out. We knew which teams were in favour and which were not at basically all times, and although he did eventually end up at Stamford Bridge it was by no means always obvious that it would be his final destination. Check out the timeline:
- January 29th - Hazard claims he wants to play for a 'top' Premier League team in the 2012/13 season. Chelsea seem the most obvious combination of money and need. Compliments Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Spurs within span of few days.
- February 13th - 'Lille sources' claimed that meant Tottenham Hotspur. Many skeptical
March 13th - Hazard talks up Manchester United:
Of course, [Manchester United] is a club that excites anyone.
For now my focus is on Lille but yes, it is a pleasure to be watched by one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best.
- May 2nd - Spotted at Manchester derby. All but City and United believed to be out of race.
- May 8th - Hazard claims he'll be wearing blue next season. Rumours continue to swirl about a deal with Manchester United, who will be sporting a blue away kit.
- May 19th - Chelsea win Champions League final. Speculation mounts that that puts them back into the Hazard race.
- May 24th - Hazard confirms that he'll be choosing between offers from three clubs: The Manchesters and Chelsea.
- May 28th - A cryptic tweet ('good afternoon guys. i made up my mind. see you later. thanks') sparks hours of speculation until Hazard finally ends speculation by saying 'I'm signing for the champion's league winner.'
- June 4th - Despite a week of wondering whether Hazard's about to do an about-face, Chelsea FC announce his acquisition.
I don't think the timeline really does this justice, though. Although I very much doubt Hazard himself had anything to do with the brouhaha around his transfer, he's now managed to get himself a repuation as some horrible combination of a flirt and a troll. At some point in the past few months, he gave virtually everyone who mattered some hope that he'd be landing at their club. Fortunately, he ended up with us.
It's even better landing an elite talent when fans of other clubs were convinced he was going to join them. This saga has made Hazard, a brilliant player in his own right, a pantomime villain to everyone but Chelsea fans as well. That just makes me like him more. Best troll ever? Best troll ever.