Eden Hazard spent most of this season being more awesome than ever before and that has not gone unnoticed, to say the least. Not only did he lead Chelsea to the Premier League title (and the League Cup trophy), he's collected several individual end-of-season awards as well. He won the trifecta — Players' Player of the Year, Writers' Player of the Year, and Premier League Player of the Year — and he's a shoo-in for a second consecutive Chelsea Player of the Year award as well.
Outside of the tangible tributes, he's been receiving plenty of verbal praise as well, from fans, peers, pundits, and coaches alike. But not all praise is created equal. Some, which come from a higher power, are more important than others. Gianfranco Zola is one such higher power.
"I'm delighted to be here to pay tribute to the Football Writers' Player of the Year 2015. It was a privilege for me to receive the award back in 1997 and tonight is about paying tribute to a very young, very talented player, who has won this award, as well as a championship medal this season."
‘He's an exceptional player, one with huge potential. With his skills and ability he's the type of player supporters want to watch, he's fantastic. His record this year has been exceptional, he's played 51 games and scored 19 goals. Everybody knows Hazard can do exceptional things with the ball going forward, but what I didn't know about was his work-rate defensively, which is unbelievable, and I think that's why he's become such an instrumental player for Chelsea. It's a fantastic quality to have and I don't remember in my time tracking back so much. A lot of the credit has to go to Chelsea and Jose ( Mourinho) for allowing Hazard to grow into the player he is now. Jose has played a big part, teaching him how to be effective when the opposition have the ball."
"I'm also delighted because he's another Chelsea player, like me, to win this prestigious award."
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Chelsea FC
Zola was speaking at the FWA awards ceremony on Thursday on behalf of the man undergoing emergency dental surgery. Turns out not even Eden Hazard can juke and dribble his way out of impacted wisdom teeth.
The comparisons between the two Chelsea wizards are and will be inevitable. And most of them will be unfair and incomplete and couldn't possibly hope to even grasp the tiniest facet of what made (and makes, in the younger man's case) them special. One thing is for sure though, we're lucky to have been able to witness, twice weekly, for nine months of the year, their skills, their joy, their magnificence. They are two of the greatest players to have ever worn a Chelsea shirt and if Hazard can keep going for a few more years, he'll rightly take his place next to Zola in the pantheon of Chelsea legends.