By and large the Premier League is considered to be the most competitive in the world.
It’s the reason there can be as many as four teams vying for the title at any given time, the reason the relegation dogfight can include the whole bottom half of the table and, most importantly, the reason the league has a knack of attracting copious amounts of foreign talent year after year.
For the most part, bar a few exceptions, if a player can make it in England’s top flight then he’s good enough to ply his trade in any of the major leagues. In many respects it’s a true barometer for how good a star really is; an acid test, if you will.
That’s why it usually indicates a particular level of talent when a young foreign import comes to the Premier League and, as opposed to hundreds of over-hyped pretenders, actually lives up to his billing. For me, Eden Hazard has done exactly that.
There were many sceptics of the youngster’s potential when he transferred from Lille in 2012. There were those who suggested he would take time to adapt to the pace of the English game, those who questioned his ability to cope with the physical nature of the Premier League and of course those who doubted whether or not he would ever fulfil his massive promise. Make no mistake, he has silenced all of them.
It’s mainly for this reason that I honestly think Jose Mourinho was right when he labelled Hazard the greatest young talent on the planet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that opinions will differ massively when it comes to the title of the best starlet around, but for me at least, Hazard stands alone.
Of course there’s the likes of Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze, who have set the Bundesliga alight in recent times, and then there’s the people’s choice for the award; Neymar. However despite all three of them being linked at various different points to the Premier League, none of them have ever made the crossing.
Moving back to my earlier point about England’s elite division, it’s overall quality means that it trumps any other league on the planet in terms of difficulty. La Liga might have Barcelona and Real Madrid, Germany has Bayern and Dortmund and France has PSG and Monaco, but none of them can claim parity with the Premier League in terms of overall excellence.
And Hazard doesn’t simply play well domestically, he exceeds expectations week in week out. Considering he’s only 23 and is some way of his peak, it’s fairly easily to envisage a future wherein he’s competing with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or.
Neymar may have made headlines with his mega-money move to the Nou Camp, but he hasn’t yet tested his consistency when pitted against sturdy defences on a routine basis. Gotze tore the Champions League apart last campaign, but would he do the same on a cold Tuesday night at the Britannia Stadium?
The answer, at least for the moment, is a probable no. There’s a reason Hazard is compared to a young Ronaldo; it’s because, as Ronaldo was, he is in a class of his own with relation to his age.