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After 500th professional game, Hazard reflects on decision to join Chelsea, motivation to keep playing football

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Milestone.

Chelsea v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

It’s fair to say that without Chelsea’s Champions League trophy win in 2012, we would not be where we are the moment. We might be better off of course, but chances are we would’ve been worse. For example, we would not have had Eden Hazard.

Long drawn-out transfer sagas weren’t quite the norm back in 2012, so Hazard’s saga rankled a bit for a while, but since he made the right decision in the end it was quickly and easily forgotten. It’s certainly helped that Hazard has been just as good as advertised back in the day, when he was the mostly highly coveted young prospect in Europe.

Now, he’s starting to approach veteran territory. He recently made his 500th professional appearance (all teams, including national team combined) and sat down for an interview with HLN, parts of which were helpfully relayed by Kristof Terreur on Twitter.

"Didier Drogba called Gervinho, who was my teammate at Lille. He insisted that Gervinho passed me the phone: 'I need to talk to Eden.' That was during my last season in France."

"Didier said to me straight away: 'I want you to join Chelsea. A good club.' There's a story doing the rounds that Didier then passed his phone on to Abramovich, but that's not true. I only talked to Didier."

"In the beginning I wasn't convinced about Chelsea. I wanted to play Champions League, but they'd finished outside the four. Then Chelsea won the final and I didn't hesitate any longer. I knew I could easily adapt. It was London, close to home."

"Kevin [de Bruyne] had signed, Romelu [Lukaku] was there. They had other French speakers in the squad too: Malouda, Essien."

"I was convinced that I would get enough minutes after talking to Roberto di Matteo. He wanted me badly. I was just sad that Didier left. Fortunately, he came back in 2014."

We’d already known this story of course, though perhaps not in this much stark detail. And while the French-speaking contingent that Hazard speaks of are largely gone now, he has stepped into that leadership void as we’ve seen in his interactions with Michy Batshuayi, for example.

Such leadership qualities are starting to slowly emerge in the player who’s often been portrayed as lackadaisical both on and off the pitch, largely, one feels, due to his generally jovial attitude and constant smiling even when things are not going all that well for him. There’s a good reason for all that: he just wants to be happy. And he wants others to share in his happiness.

"I don't feel like an entertainer, but I try to send people home with a good feeling. I want to delight them. When I go to a film or a show, I want to be thrilled."

"I try to make the fans happy too. They pay so much money to watch us. I try to give them value for money. And hopefully they go home smiling after 90 minutes."

"There are dozens of picture on this table in which I'm laughing. That's me. Even if things aren't going my way, I try to keep smiling."

"Fun is my fuel, nothing else. I am one of the lucky ones doing a job that I love. Many people would be happy to be in a footballer's shoes. That's why I enjoy every day."

-Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard has become synonymous with Chelsea over the past 4.5 seasons and has led Chelsea to a Premier League, Europa League and League Cup title already. It’s been our privilege to watch him once or twice almost every week for the past half-decade ... hopefully we’ll get to do so for at least next half-decade as well.