Forget Scholes - Hazard can be Ferguson's new Ronaldo

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Things in football are rarely certain, but the likelihood that Eden Hazard will leave Lille for pastures new during the summer transfer window would appear to be so.

However, what remains unclear is the potential destination of the 21-year-old Belgian, with a number of Europe's elite seemingly chasing his prized signature.

Arsenal have been frequently linked with Hazard over the past 12 months or so, while Chelsea and Tottenham also appear to be realistic destinations for the Belgian.

Hazard is also being courted by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, while Manchester United appear to have added their name to the youngster's growing list of admirers.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was spotted by television cameras in the stands at the Stade de Gerland as Lille succumbed to defeat against Lyon on Saturday, and reports claim Hazard was the main focus of his attention.

According to The Telegraph, Ferguson has identified Hazard as potential heir to Paul Scholes, who is set to retire for a second time at the end of the current season.

Finding the new Scholes is a nigh on impossible task for Ferguson, but Hazard certainly possesses the potential to challenge the achievements of the Old Trafford legend.

However, the talents of the Belgium international at this early stage of his career do not appear to suggest he a player in the same mould as Scholes - a pacey winger rather than a midfield craftsman.

Perhaps a more wise comparison - and arguably more impressive - would be to measure his assets alongside those of Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age, rather than to picture Hazard succeeding Scholes in the heart of midfield.

One striking similarity between the two would be their dribbling ability, and Hazard has clocked up more dribbles (139) than any other player in Ligue 1 this season.

Ronaldo, of course, is among the world's best when striding forward with the ball at his feet, and Hazard does bear a resemblance to the Portuguese when he is in full flight.

But perhaps a more intriguing facet of their likeness comes when studying the comparative goalscoring statistics of the pair during their formative years - and there is little to choose between their respective records.

During his first four seasons as a professional - the first of which came with Sporting Lisbon - Ronaldo made 168 appearances and found the net on 32 occasions.

Hazard, who is currently in his fifth season of senior football, had scored 32 goals in 143 games for Lille prior to the start of this campaign, in which he has netted 13 times already.

This is a better record than Ronaldo can boast during the year in which he turned 21, with the Real Madrid star scoring 12 goals in 47 appearances for Manchester United in the 2004/05 season.

Meanwhile, Hazard's 13 strikes this term have come in only 38 matches - a goal ratio of 0.34 compared to Ronaldo's 0.26 at the same stage in their respective careers.

This is an impressive record for Hazard, given that he is not blessed with the same physical attributes as Ronaldo - standing some five inches shorter than his counterpart - so his mere size provides less of a goal threat.

Ronaldo is, of course, particularly strong in the air and finds the net regularly with his head, but Hazard is more likely to be found taking corners rather than getting on the end of them.

This is, perhaps, one category in which Hazard leans towards comparisons with Scholes, but his all-round style is more in kind with that of Ronaldo.

As well as having marauded with the ball more than other player in France this season, Hazard has also made the most passes in the final third (971); registering seven assists in the league and six more in other competitions.

In 181 appearances for Lille, Hazard has provided 41 goals for his teammates, while Ronaldo contributed 45 assists during his first five seasons at Old Trafford - a time period in which he chalked up 199 appearances.

Such statistics certainly make for interesting reading, although detractors will argue that Ronaldo was plying his trade in the Premier League, while Hazard operates in the less competitive Ligue 1.

It was, of course, during his sixth season as a professional in which Ronaldo really flourished; scoring 42 goals as Manchester United won the Premier League and Champions League, while he also picked up the Ballon d'Or.

But does Hazard have the potential to replicate such a feat? Well, it is certainly a possibility and, with the likelihood he will eventually transfer from the wing into a more central position, the youngster could become more potent in front of goal.

It would certainly prove to be quite a coup should Sir Alex Ferguson capture the signature of Hazard, and this summer will be a particularly intriguing one in the transfer market.

Ferguson, however, has been reluctant to spend big in recent seasons and will have to pay upwards of £30 million in order to capture Hazard in the transfer window.

But it is imperative the United boss does whatever is necessary sign Hazard and, at last, bring Ronaldo's natural successor to Old Trafford.

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