Eden Hazard picked up his second individual accolade of the campaign when he was named Chelsea Player of the Year 2013/14 on Monday, bringing his second season in English football to a close in positive fashion.
Shortly after receiving the prize, which was presented by Jose Mourinho, the Belgian sat down with the official Chelsea website.
In part one of our interview Hazard reflects on joining a long, illustrious list of previous winners, as well as outlining his determination to ensure next season is a more successful one collectively.
For Eden Hazard, the 2013/14 season will be remembered fondly when he looks back on what he’s achieved, particularly taking into account the Belgian is still only 23 years old, having completed just two seasons in the Barclays Premier League.
His campaign, which began steadily if not spectacularly, gradually improved and from the period leading up to Christmas right through the turn of the year and beyond, Hazard excelled, producing the type of performances on a regular basis which earn the plaudits of football supporters far and wide.
Hazard was rewarded for his impressive displays last month, on the night of our 2-0 win at Liverpool, when he was named PFA Young Player of the Year (pictured below), having also been nominated for the senior prize.
Twenty-four hours after the season ended at Cardiff, another acceptance speech was required, this time when he was voted the club’s Player of the Year, picking up the award during a ceremony at Stamford Bridge, the scene of so many of his eye-catching displays.
‘It feels good, it was a good season for me but as the boss said, we finished third, and I hope next season we can finish first,’ says Hazard. ‘I also hope I can score more goals than I did this season.
‘If it’s voted for by the fans or the players it means the same, we have around 20 players in the squad and there are thousands of fans, it’s a great award to win.
‘It’s good because I’m still young, there are a lot of great players who have won it before, legends like JT, Frank, Didier Drogba. I just want to say thank you because if I’m here today [with the award] it’s because I have team-mates around me who are all very good players.
‘It’s my second season, the first was good and this was better, but hopefully next season will be even better. I need to work, training is very important, if I feel good in training I feel good out on the pitch during the games, that’s what I’ve been able to do this season.’
Football, of course, is a team game and while individual awards are quite rightly cherished, the feeling of securing a major trophy, as a squad, is something which simply cannot be matched.
Chelsea supporters have enjoyed a fruitful time in recent years as the club have consistently won the top prizes. The Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League have all taken up residence in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet at various times, but the competitive nature of modern football, both domestically and in Europe, ensures it cannot always be that way.
Taking the fight for the Premier League title to the final weeks of the season and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, for many clubs, would be viewed as a success, but the standards which have been set at Chelsea ensure Hazard’s joy at picking up his personal awards has been tempered by the disappointment of the team not winning a trophy.
‘I came here for trophies, this season was good for me but not collectively because we didn’t win anything, and last season we won the Europa League,’ he explains.
‘Individually it’s been good because I was able to play in almost every game, be on the pitch and do what I enjoy doing most, which is to play football.
‘This season was an “almost” season – almost in the Champions League final, almost champions in the Premier League. I hope next season it will better and we can go to the next level.’
Although the campaign may have ultimately ended in collective frustration, there were undoubtedly many highlights; beating the teams who finished in the top two places home and away, massive wins against London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, the dramatic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Asked to pick out his favourite moment, Hazard plumps for what many believe was the outstanding team performance of the season.
‘For me, it has to be Man City away because everybody thought we were going to lose at the Etihad and we did very well. For the whole 90 minutes everybody was fantastic,’ he says.
On a personal level, meanwhile, the feeling of scoring his first hat-trick for the club understandably still brings a smile to his face.
‘Yes, it was against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge. I hope I can score another one, or maybe even two, next season,’ Hazard adds.
An intelligent, personable young man, Hazard is always striving to improve. Most players, especially those of such tender years, would be satisfied with his first two years in England, but he knows there is more to come.
On presenting Hazard with his award, Mourinho, in a playful manner, urged the player to take his game to another level next season, a sentiment the Belgian is in total agreement with.
‘It’s good and it’s true,’ he says. ‘I would prefer him to speak like this rather than say he’s the best and doesn’t need to work. I know I have to do better, in training and on the pitch. If I can score more I will score more and next season I hope I will be better.
‘I want to be the best, I hope one day I can win the Ballon d’Or, maybe not now but if I work every day and take pleasure from my game then why not?
‘The Champions League and the World Cup are the best competitions in the world. For a young player like me it’s good to play for a club who can reach the semi-final or the final because that’s why I play football, for the big games. In the English Premier League you play Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Man United every week and it’s very good.’
– In part two of the interview later this week, Hazard discusses the impact made by some of his team-mates, outlines his objectives for next season and looks ahead to next month’s World Cup in Brazil…