When both of your parents were professional footballers and later sport teachers, you are expected to be naturally gifted and extremely talented.
Eden Hazard is a name that’s famous not only in the footballing world but also in the sporting world. The first of four brothers alongside Thorgan, Killyan and Ethan, Eden is no doubt the most talented of them all and he has proven that over time.
Coming through the youth ranks at Lille, a club he joined when he was 14 in 2005, Hazard quickly forged a name for himself after making senior appearances for the club in the 2008/09 season, achieved under Rudi Garcia, the then manager. His first goal for the club made him the youngest player to ever score for Lille.
In May 2010, Hazard became the first player to win two consecutive Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year Awards after winning the same gong in the previous season. He also won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year Award in 2011 as the youngest player to win the award in history, an accolade he would go on win again in the following season.
After amassing all those awards earlier in his career, many were expecting Eden to be among the players to win the next three or four World Player of the Year Awards, this was the discussion among football elites and many will not expect anything less from the Belgian.
The biggest clubs in Europe were all aware of his talent and what the future held for the player. The likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea were said to be among the leading clubs that the mercurial attacker would have been likely to join.
Rumours filled the air and the most widely speculated destination for the Belgian was Manchester United, a rumor he will put to bed on social media by tweeting “I’m signing for the Champions League winners” after Chelsea's triumphed against Bayern Munich on May 19, 2012.
Hazard eventually signed for Chelsea in June 2012 at the age of 21 in a fee in the region of 32 million pounds. He went on to score 13 goals in all competitions that season and helping his team to win UEFA Europa League under Rafael Benitez.
When Jose Mourinho rejoined Chelsea in his second coming in the summer of 2013, hope was again restored following Roberto Di Matteo's sacking and Benitez's subsequent caretaker role. Expectations were high and everybody looksed up to Hazard to carry the team on his shoulders. Mourinho is known for his ability to get the best out of his players, criticize them when need be but also give honest praise when merited.
After scoring a brace against Sunderland - a side coached by a former Chelsea player in Gus Poyet - in the first week of December 2013, Mourinho heaped praise on Hazard and claiming that the performance was his best of the season so far. Jose went on to compare him with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo though, admitting Hazard was still short of their levels and pleaded with the world to give him time.
Mourinho coaxed the best out of Hazard and the Belgian was nominated for both PFA Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year Awards, he won the former but lost the latter to Luis Suarez by few margins.
The Portuguese coach, however, noticed that Hazard's hunger and determination was not to score more goals or reach for the top, he seemed to be satisfied with his level of play and achievement.
This was an opinion Eden’s father Thierry later confirmed to a Belgian newspaper by saying ‘at school Eden was always satisfied with 60 percent, why should it be more? He’s also like that in life, he doesn’t have to be the strongest. It doesn’t matter whether he scores or one of his team-mate score, he wants to win but it is not an obsession. With that mentality he has come a long way and he’ll never change.’
If this is coming from the man who knows Eden from birth, then who is that magician that will change him?
Jose would not have been happy with such a statement and he was determined to improve Hazard at all costs. The following season, in 2014/15, Chelsea won the Premier League and the League Cup double, thanks to Hazard's 14 goals and 9 assists in the league and 19 goals in all competitions - the highest in his career. He was named the PFA Player of the Year that same season and won Chelsea's player of the year award second time in a row.
Mourinho was expecting Hazard to continue his improvement the following season, to raise the bar above his 14 goals in the league in each of the two previous seasons and take his rightful place among the world best players. But that season was the worst Hazard has ever had in his Chelsea career, he went ahead to score just four goals in the league and six in total. Jose was axed before the end of that season and Hazard was believed to be among the players that let the Portuguese down.
Antonio Conte took the hot seat at Chelsea in the summer of 2016, Hazard was rejuvenated but unable to go beyond his 14 goals in the league a season. However, Chelsea won the league in 2016/17 but Hazard was not recognized for any personal honour.
Hazard's talent cannot be doubted but his ability to explore the talent and rise to stardom is questionable. His refusal to sign a contract extension has continue to reignite the speculation of a move to Real Madrid. Zidane has once said he would have taken Hazard to Madrid with his "eyes closed" in 2009 before becoming head coach but Eden’s lack of improvement in the last couple of seasons may be the only obstacle.
Whether a manager can still mine and refine the gold in Hazard only time will tell.