When you look back to March, it would seem improbable that Eden Hazard would even be at Chelsea come the turn of Euro 2016, never mind tipped to play well for them.
Having gone seven months without scoring for the Blues and taking until April to bag his first league strike, Hazard’s future and dignity at Stamford Bridge looked in tatters. Furthermore, with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain interested in his signature, Chelsea looked poised to cash in.
However, after an electric end to the season and a string of superb outings for Belgium at Euro 2016, the outlook has changed dramatically. Not only is his future no longer in question, but the winger looks set to dominate the Premier League as he did just a year ago.
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While no Chelsea player was exempt from criticism last season, Hazard took the brunt of it. Even the switch from Jose Mourinho to Guus Hiddink didn’t help inspire the 25-year-old as it had done for many squad members.
In fact, it took Antonio Conte’s announcement and a reported chat with the Italian for Hazard to start pulling his finger out again. The winger scored vital goals against Liverpool and Tottenham in an end to the season that saw many Chelsea fans hit with a rush of nostalgia.
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Only when the Blues’ season was truly in tatters did their old talisman make a return.
Many had expected this summer to be a transfer whirlwind of clubs scrapping for his services. Yet the last months of the season seem to have made Hazard’s future crystal clear and it remains at Stamford Bridge.
Above all however, it’s been the ex-Lille winger’s showings at Euro 2016 that have proven his end to last season was no brief renaissance.
With the captain's armband, Hazard has been a vital player for Belgium in instigating their 3-0 romping of the Republic of Ireland as well as their navigation of a plucky Sweden side.
It was his showing against Hungary in the round of 16 that saw Chelsea fans the most excited though. The 25-year-old bagged an assist, goal and the Man of the Match award in a 4-0 demolition job to reach the quarter finals.
His mercurial solo goal was the cherry on the cake and Blues supporters are now truly believing that the old Hazard is back.
There can only be positives for Chelsea. They face an uncertain season next year and need all their retained stars to be firing on all cylinders if success is to be recaptured.
Hazard’s form seems to behave in accordance with that of his club. His influence is to such an extent that if he does transfer his Euro 2016 form into next season, you can almost guarantee Chelsea will clamber back into the top four at least.
With a new manager at the helm and a plethora of signings set to arrive, there’s reason to be excited if you’re a Chelsea fan. However, above all, the return to form of Hazard should prove the most thrilling proposition as, on his day, he’s simply the best player in English football. Period.
He can take Belgium far this summer and Chelsea even further in 2016-17.
Do you think Eden Hazard will be back to his best next season? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!