It’s been almost four years since Thorgan Hazard waved goodbye to his older brother Eden for one last time at Chelsea’s Cobham training centre following a permanent move to Borussia Mönchengladbach, a club where he’d spent the previous season on loan.
The 25-year-old has come on leaps and bounds since ditching his life in the reserves in west London, but still seldom will you see Hazard’s name mentioned without some kind of reference to his more well-known sibling.
Heck, in somewhat of a self-deprecating fashion, even an article you’re reading which is meant to be about Thorgan’s rise couldn’t help but doff it’s cap to the Chelsea star in the first line.
Slowly but surely, however, Hazard has clawed his way out of his older brother’s shadow and is now making a name for himself at one of Germany’s biggest clubs, prompting transfer links with the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
Comparisons were always going to be inevitable as both players came through the ranks at Belgian side AFC Tubize before jetting off to France. Gladbach’s talisman took his first steps as a first team player with RC Lens, two years after Eden Hazard joined LOSC Lille.
While their moves to France were separated by two years, the eldest Hazard brothers found themselves through the door at Stamford Bridge within the span of two months during the summer of 2012.
Thorgan Hazard returned to Belgium on loan a few weeks later, and it was at SV Zulte Waregem that he started to make a name for himself as a bright prospect who could step up to one of Europe’s top five leagues.
“He was proposed to me while I was on holidays,” former Borussia Mönchengladbach manager Lucien Favre told RTBF (via bundesliga.com). “I watched on YouTube because I didn’t have the choice, and I didn’t want to watch too many DVDs of Zulte Waregem.
“Based on what I saw on the internet, I said immediately ‘we must take him because there’s no financial risk – it’s a loan deal.'”
Financial risk or not, Favre’s gut instinct paid off. Hazard went on to score five goals and claim 10 assists across the Bundesliga and Europa League during the 2014/15 campaign, a return which proved more than enough to convince Gladbach to make the move permanent straight away.
Since his early days as a young Foal, Hazard has dramatically improved his ability in front of goal and he’s found the back of the net another 40 times for Borussia Mönchengladbach, as well as claim a further 29 assists.
Things came to a head for Hazard during last season’s Hinrunde where he became the first Gladbach player ever to score or assist in nine consecutive games in a row, something which unsurprisingly caught the attention of Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.
The 25-year-old retained his place for the Red Devils when the time came to select their squad for the World Cup, and Hazard has been a part of every Belgium squad since.
It’s back at Gladbach, however, where Hazard is really making a name for himself as one of the best players in Europe this season.
He’s scored the same amount of goals (12) as his older brother – something that’s worth keeping an eye on if you want to know who will win their annual bet – in seven fewer appearances, while he’s also sitting level with Marco Reus on six assists this season.
Although the likes of Alassane Pléa, Florian Neuhaus and even Jonas Hofmann have been stars in their own right for the Foals this season, it’s felt like Gladbach have been carried into somewhat of a title challenge by Hazard alone.
He has scored three match-winning goals in the Bundesliga so far, while also setting up a further two decisive goals which have helped Borussia Mönchengladbach earn a third-place finish at the halfway point in the league.
There is only one step left for Hazard to take before he is widely considered as one of the best players on the continent and that’s, with all due respect to Gladbach’s success in the 1970s, to replicate his current form with a genuine European powerhouse.
If the attacking midfielder tuned winger can replicate his current form at a club like those that he’s currently being tipped to join, there is no reason why Hazard can’t one day be considered in the same world-class bracket as his older brother, as well as cement his place on Chelsea’s long list of ‘ones that got away’.