In part one of our interview with Chelsea Player of the Year, Eden Hazard reflected 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.
In part two today, the Belgian 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…
During his first season at Stamford Bridge, Eden Hazard quickly built up a rapport with Oscar and Juan Mata, with the trio, operating behind the lone striker, causing all manner of problems for opposition defenders with their ability on the ball and running off it. Mata has since departed the club, leaving for Manchester United in January, but the squad has been bolstered in the attacking positions with the acquisitions of Andre Schurrle, Willian and, more recently, Mohamed Salah.
Competition for places in that area of the pitch is now extremely high, meaning consistency is the key, as Hazard explains.
‘I think now I’m not complete but I have experience,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘When you are young you sometimes play one good game and then one bad game, this season I was able to be more consistent, which is good for me. I’ve had a lot of fun on the pitch this season. Juan left the club but Willian and Andre did very well in their first season.’
Hazard also had kind words for Cesar Azpilicueta, who won the Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year award.
‘He deserved it, he’s had a very good season,’ says the 23-year-old. ‘He didn’t start the season because Ashley was playing left-back, but he’s the kind of player who trains hard every day, which has helped him arrive at the top. I’m happy for him because he’s my friend, he speaks French with me and he’s a very good guy.’
When watching Hazard in action you are often left with the impression he is just a young man living out the dream which only a select, talented few are able to experience. Even on those odd occasions when he might be enduring a difficult game, a smile is never far from his face. Put simply, he is a natural talent who just loves playing football.
‘This is what I am,’ he says. ‘I try to play like I did when I was a young boy playing in my garden – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good but I try to always make sure I give my best to help the team, even if I am not having the best game myself.’
In a month’s time Hazard, like some of his Chelsea team-mates, will be given the chance to fulfil a lifetime ambition when he travels to Brazil as part of the Belgium World Cup squad.His younger brother, Thorgan, has been named on the standby list, while Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois have also been selected.
With such a talented squad, optimism back home is understandably high, and the magnitude of the opportunity certainly isn’t lost on Hazard.
‘It’s Belgium’s first World Cup in 12 years, we want to do it for the country, it’s very important,’ he explains. ‘We have a young team but a very good one, I don’t know where we will finish but I would like us to reach the semi-final or the final because with such a young team it will be great for our confidence.’
At the culmination of the World Cup, Hazard, who has made 111 appearances for Chelsea over the last two seasons, will enjoy a well-deserved break, before attention starts turning towards next season. The manner in which this campaign ended for the team has fuelled Hazard’s desire to ensure we do better next time around.
‘Next season, with this team, we can win the Premier League and maybe the Champions League as well. If we win trophies it will be a great season for Chelsea. My objectives here are to win trophies, to play games, to score goals and to enjoy my time on the pitch. As a player I want to continue working hard and enjoy playing as I have this year. I always want to score more goals and improve, that is a big objective.’
Jose Mourinho has indicated that a few quality additions to the squad, coupled with the experience acquired by some of his younger players this season, will enable us to fight for the major trophies once more. If Hazard is able to reproduce and build on the form he’s shown during his time at the club thus far, it would take a brave man to back against us.