Eden Hazard will blow 31 candles out on his birthday cake today.
While it might be crazy to think that the Belgian superstar is now three seasons deep into his nightmarish spell at Real Madrid, there’s no denying that he endures as a generational talent.
Football fans still hold out hope that Hazard will finally come good at the Bernabeu because the joy that he brought us all with his mesmeric performances at Chelsea will never be forgotten.
Hazard’s time with Lille
And in the spirit of celebrating Hazard for his 31st lap around the sun, we thought that he would cast our minds back to a simpler time when the winger was on the verge of his big move in 2012.
It’s easy to think that it’s almost been a decade since Hazard waved goodbye to Lille with his dazzling displays in France ultimately prompting Chelsea to open their chequebook for £32 million.
In fact, Hazard was so untouchable in Ligue 1 that he could even produce the goods when he was recovering from a heavy night out, or at least that’s the story of his final ever game with Lille.
It’s well-known that Hazard bagged a hat-trick on his bow for the French club, but it’s far less famed that the then 21-year-old achieved the feat on barely any sleep and probably a massive hangover.
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Hazard’s all-nighter before final game
But don’t just take our word for it because the timeless story comes courtesy of Hazard’s former captain, Rio Mavuba, who recounted the night’s festivities – according to Goal – in amusing fashion.
“We were certain to finish third and we were facing Nancy the following day.” Mavuba recounted to reporters. “It was Hazard’s last match with Lille and he wanted to organise a little something.
“We decided to go have a little drink. A little drink that dragged on somewhat. The following morning, Eden was still drunk.
“That evening against Nancy, not even with 30 minutes played, Eden had already bagged a hat-trick.
“The guy had not even slept, he drank for the entire night and he put away a hat-trick in 30 minutes. We all looked at each other [and] we told ourselves that this guy was the real deal.”
Hazard’s brilliant hat-trick vs Nancy
Excited to see footage of the game now, aren’t you? Well, it says it all about the Belgian’s brilliance that you wouldn’t know he was shattered while scoring the hat-trick you can watch below:
Now that’s one way to run off a hangover.
The brilliance of Hazard
It’s staggering to think that Hazard had bagged the match ball by the 35th minute when you consider the context, and it was all the more amusing that Lille reference the drinking in their celebrations.
It might not have been up there with Paul Gascoigne replicating the ‘dentist’s chair’ at Euro 96, but it was a lovely wink and a nod to a story that wouldn’t be told in its entirety for another few years.
And in the end, it proved to be a fitting end for Hazard’s time in France before a lucrative move to Stamford Bridge that would reap 352 games, 110 goals and six major honours.
We can only keep our fingers crossed that Hazard can rediscover that form for Real and who knows, based on the Lille evidence, perhaps a few birthday drinks might be the secret.