Another day, another Eden Hazard interview. More of the same, right? Well, sort of.
Hazard’s most recent interview — conducted with The Times as part of his work for Chelsea Foundation — paints a far more positive picture of his situation at Chelsea and his relationship with Sarri, and above all, shows a clear-eyed appreciation of the situation that belies his normally carefree attitude.
The interview is perhaps most notable for what it lacks, any talk of Real Madrid. Perhaps that has something to do with the context of the occasion — Hazard was there as part of Chelsea Foundation’s ongoing education and diversity programmes — but the closest he got to it was to reiterate his happiness at the Bridge and how much he loves to entertain the fans, both at home and abroad.
“When we go to Asia or America, you can see people who know you because I play for Chelsea. It’s a big club. Chelsea won the Champions League. Chelsea won the Europa League. The last 12 years they are the best club in England in terms of trophies. Top players, great managers. So that’s why I’m loving it. I love to play for Chelsea because it’s one of the best clubs in the world.”
“Yes [I’m happy at Chelsea]. Stamford Bridge is different to other stadiums because the stands are close to the pitch. I like this feeling, you can almost touch the fans. I can hear everything the fans say, ‘Come on Hazard!’ ‘Do some magic, please!’ That’s why I love to play there. I score a lot of goals there, and I will score more this season.”
Will he score more there after this season? Well, that remains to be seen. His primary aim, as ever is to be happy and to be playing football.
“It is more passion than a job. It will always be a passion. And the day I don’t think like this, I stop playing. Sometimes, the training is a bit boring, but football’s my life. I eat football, I talk football, I play football. My happiness? To be on the pitch.
“I play with instinct.”
It’s that last part that gets him into trouble with coaches sometimes, who want more and more but are left frustrated because Hazard’s happy to share the limelight.
“I’m not at all selfish. The way I am can be a weakness to be the best player in the world. Managers like Mourinho, Conte, now with Sarri want me to score 40, 50 goals a season but can I do that? I’m not sure. Maybe they think I can, but I know myself and I don’t think I can. But I will try.”
“I like to be ‘the star’ but I like also when I can pass the ball to another for him to score, and it is not just about me. It’s about everyone. My target is to help the team to win something.”
In the ultra-competitive world of top level professional sports, Hazard’s attitude remains uncommon, if not rare. Some might say he’s squandering his ultimate potential, but who are we to stand in the way of his happiness — especially if it in the end dissuades him from joining Real Madrid.
It might also help that despite Sarri’s public admonishments about mentalities and such, Hazard is enjoying the Sarri-ball brand.
“Possession! Possession! The manager likes possession! He’s a lot about statistics. Numbers. Possession. Shooting. Goal opportunity.
“In the past we used to play more counterattack. It is different with Sarri than with Conte and Mourinho. Sometimes we keep possession, and I understand the fans want us to go forward [more directly], but it is part of the football. We are still learning about his concept. We are doing well. I like this kind of football.
“Sarri is a great manager. He’s an [experienced] man but the way he thinks is the same way I think about football.”
In the lengthy interview, Hazard touches on plenty of other topics as well, praises Higuaín, Giroud, Jorginho, De Bruyne, life in London, and so on and so forth — including a clear-eyed assessment of Kanté’s new role and the reaction to it.
“N’Golo’s a clever guy, one of the best in his position, maybe the best in the world. N’Golo now plays six months in the different position. He needs to adapt. When we win, everyone will say, ‘Yes, he plays in his [best] position, and if we lose everyone will say, ‘No, he needs to go a bit behind’. Depends only on the result.”
-Eden Hazard; source: Times
He’s an old hand at saying the right things to the same questions, even if he sometimes does tease. He tends to keep it light and inoffensive, shallow and happy. He understands how conversations are shaped, how narratives are formed.
Even if he’s here just to have fun, win a few trophies, and create some happiness.