Now Or Never: Chelsea must make huge Eden Hazard transfer decision for Mauricio Pochettino as return date set
Let us start with a quick disclaimer because it is needed. Eden Hazard should not be returning to Chelsea in a playing capacity in any shape or form
It needs saying with Hazard more than with others simply due to who he is and what he means. Very few figures in football are able to conjure the feels that he can bring out of supporters en masse. He is, all things considered, a unique case and someone who’s circumstances align with logic to dictate just why a homecoming needs to be out of the equation.
Taking emotion out of things, and with Hazard it is near impossible to do such a thing, this is a 32-year-old crocked winger with seven goals in four years. This Hazard, the one without a club having ended his five-year contract with Real Madrid 12 months early, is not even close to the 2015/16 Hazard that flopped in the midst of a calamitous season at Stamford Bridge.
The Belgian is shot of confidence, of form, of the electricity that sparked his career. He has been left to rot on the bench at Santiago Bernabeu and the man left behind is not one ready to compete or offer anything tangible to a side fighting for a return to the top.
This is all without considering that at Chelsea there is no genuine room for Hazard. Unless they were to take him on for free in a non-playing role, a motivator and happy-go-lucky smiley-faced bobble-head figure, then there is no benefit. Hazard is not the quickest, fittest or most skilful player. He isn’t the best and there is no evidence to suggest he can actually contribute.
Add in that he has had no pre-season, though that rarely stopped him when he was at the club before, and there is already a mountain of injuries and there really is nothing to be gained. Across the front-line Chelsea have two players for each position with a fully-fit group.
This version of Hazard is not going to push Mykhailo Mudryk or Christopher Nkunku from the left, he isn’t Cole Palmer or Carney Chukwuemeka in the centre, can’t play as back-up to Nicolas Jackson and Armando Broja up front and will not compete with Raheem Sterling and Noni Madueke on the right.
Besides, if Hazard was to join who would actually want him to get any minutes ahead of a young set of players needing time on the pitch together? Offers for him to play elsewhere this season have been made but none that have progressed. Retirement still feels eerily on the cards.
This isn’t a player that can enhance Mauricio Pochettino’s team and, like Didier Drogba and others have explained in the past 12 months, where is the guarantee that Hazard likes the Chelsea he comes back to? It could hardly be much further removed from the one he left under a transfer ban in 2019 or those that he succeeded in and often dragged kicking and screaming to success.
This isn’t to belittle the player and the glowing shadow he left behind. Hazard is in the pantheon of Chelsea’s best ever players and you can count on one hand the amount that have reached the levels he found in 2018 as a true triad creating leg on the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly.
Hazard is a remarkable footballing success story, a relaxed example of sheer talent and brilliance in a world of high-performance gurus. His portfolio of work is formed and expressed in complete contrast to the modern game with a grin and a blue-eyed Fremen wink that only Hazard can pull off.
His laughter and joy-radiating character is like no other. For Pochettino there is a world in-which Hazard comes in to help on the odd occasion, passing on expertise and vibes. There is, however, no way to integrate him financially or logistically into any short-term plans.
Seeing Hazard at his best under the Argentine head coach would be an exclusive and unmatched level of thrill and nostalgia but for now it’s best to enjoy the charity match that will mark his return to football and then forget the intoxicating only Hazard level of drug enthused wonder that comes with it.