Last weekend’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion once again reminded us of just how pivotal Eden Hazard is to the Chelsea cause. Not only was he absolutely brilliant on the pitch, but his perfect gesture of giving his shirt to the little boy after the match showed him to be just as brilliant off of it. This kind of player does not come along often.
As Chelsea fans we have gotten used to Hazard being linked with a move to Real Madrid in almost every transfer window since his arrival. We’ve also gotten used to largely ignoring them. But with the defending back-to-back Champions League champions struggling to maintain their form of the last couple seasons, and with Cristiano Ronaldo suddenly feeling every minute of his 32 years of age, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spanish super club did make their most concerted effort yet to reach out to Hazard, who is just about in the prime of his career, having just turned 27.
This means that Chelsea’s job of renewing Hazard’s contract, which has a little over two years left to run, is only going to get tougher as it nears its expiration date, especially as we approach the summer. And that is why Chelsea need to treat his contract renewal with even greater importance than any new signing. That means eschewing the usual lowballing, over-negotiating, extremely careful approach. This might cost the club an extra million or two, but even an “austerity program” should be able to bend and sacrifice a few of its rules to keep one of the best players in the world.
Hazard has often been described as Chelsea’s “Messi”, the player around whom the team is built, who influences the game more so than any other player. He makes the most visible contributions, he gets the fans excited. It’s his highlights that get the views, as amazing and essential as N’Golo Kanté may be. When Eden’s on the ball, greatness is expected. And he usually delivers.
Needless to say, if Chelsea lost Hazard, the team’s attacking capabilities would diminish to a very large extent. Players come and players go of course, so if Hazard leaves, there would be a player who would indubitably replace him. That process is only natural. But Hazard is or is very close to his prime, and over the past 5.5 seasons, he’s become synonymous with Chelsea. Ingrained in the club’s ambitions, it is not yet time for that relationship to end.
That word, ambition, is often brought up these days. While Chelsea’s recent transfer activities have not inspired much confidence in that respect, one way to show ambition would be to show a bit of urgency in securing Hazard’s long-term Chelsea future, just like back in 2012, when the Blues beat all of Europe to his signature.
Unlike in 2012, Chelsea are already in advantageous position, and just have to make the smart move. Tabloid rumours aside, it doesn’t look like Hazard is making any great push to leave, recently stating that he would sign a contract after fellow club and international teammate Thibaut Courtois. So let’s get him signed as well!
Basically, let’s not do an Arsenal.