*This article was originally published in Dec 2018.*
With the January transfer window now opened, every team is looking across the landscape at potential transfers to make a difference for the second half of the year and beyond. And for Chelsea, there’s one move that must happen above all else.
Chelsea need to sell Eden Hazard. Not should. Chelsea need to sell Eden Hazard this January for the improvement of the team and club in both the short term and long term.
Before laying out every reason, Hazard loves Real Madrid and has mentioned on several occasions his desire to play there, even calling them his dream club. He will make the move to Madrid whether Chelsea sell him and recoup some money or they let him run down his contract. It’s a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Hazard will call the Bernabeu his home.
The first reason to sell Hazard is the fact that he’s overvalued in the transfer market. Despite Chelsea’s aspirations to join the group of elite super clubs, they haven’t reached that level yet and when non-super clubs have an overvalued player – or asset – the right move is to sell.
This past summer as the feelers came out about Madrid’s interest in buying the Belgian captain, Chelsea slapped a £200 million price tag on him.
At first glance, of course, it’s a tremendously high price. What makes this figure so significant though is it would make Hazard the most expensive footballer in the world, even slightly more expensive than Neymar who went to PSG for what still stands as the most expensive transfer in history at £198 million in 2017.
This is important because world record transfer fee signifies that the player, Eden Hazard in this case, is the best player in the world. Is Hazard truly the best player in the world right now and therefore commands a record transfer fee? Better than Messi and Ronaldo? Is he a better player than previous world record transfers? No way in hell.
After the obvious two best in the world, would anyone consider the Chelsea Number 10 the third best footballer in the world? I don’t. Regardless of Neymar’s flopping and diving antics, no one can deny his incredible talent and skill as a footballer as highlight compilations like this one show.
So Hazard isn’t the first, second, or third best player in the world. What about fourth? Luka Modric? I don’t believe he’s the fourth best, but evidently, a lot of people think of him as even higher than 4th because he just won the Ballon d’Or. So I’ll use the majority’s decision here to put him in fourth place.
What about 5th best on the planet? Kylian Mbappe slots into the 5th spot for me based on his ability and performances now in addition to projecting out his future potential. That World Cup Final goal carries a lot of weight.
Finally, in 6th, I accept arguments for Hazard even though I think Salah and De Bruyne both had better seasons last year at Liverpool and Manchester City respectively and can currently occupy a place above the Chelsea forward.
After them, considerations to round out the top ten go to Luis Suarez, Harry Kane, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and N’golo Kante in any order.
Eden Hazard is without a shadow of a doubt a phenomenal player – a great dribbler, amazing at taking on defenders 1v1, fantastic vision, and almost unmatched creativity – and worthy of the top 10. But best in the world and meriting a record transfer fee? No.
“Great” doesn’t always mean “greatest.”
Now, the title of “best in the world” is 100% subjective so anyone who pips Hazard as such makes the statement based on the eye test and personal preference. However, every argument breaks down when it comes to Hazard’s stats and when comparing him to both the last 10 world record signings, aka the best in the world at that time, and the 10 most expensive transfers.
Remember that Chelsea’s price tag of £200 million would make Hazard the most expensive footballer, effectively signalling that he’s the best player in the world. How does he compare?
To compare players statistically, I look at their time with the selling club as it led up to their huge fee because those were their most recent stats and form that the buying team would base their willingness to buy on. Hazard moved six and a half years ago to Chelsea and has had solid stats.
Since the 2012/13 season, the Belgian wizard has notched 101 goals which averages out between 15 and 16 goals a year, with a high of 19 goals in all competitions in 2014/15. Solid numbers and undoubtedly a huge impact and contributor to Chelsea in their Premier League, Europa League, and domestic cup triumphs but not “best in the world” especially for an attacking player.
In fairness, he is a pass first guy so lower goal tallies in favour of a high number of assists can yield “best in the world” opinions. The expectation for Hazard then should be banging in assists left and right, correct?
Well, only one season with more than 20 assists in 2012/13 racking up 24 a career high in his first year in London. After that, seasons with 10, 13, 8, 7, and 11 respectively for the Blues. Solid numbers yes. Best player in the world numbers? No.
Luka Modric just won the Ballon d’Or, the de facto best player in the world award, without a stellar goal and assist numbers, so stats aren’t the only way to get recognized as the best in the world. But he’s a midfielder. He makes the pass before the assisting pass.
Hazard is a forward and should be in the final third with goals and assists the highlight of his game, not his “work rate” or what he does off the ball in the build-up. His goals and assists show he’s above average and solid, not best in the world.
Hazard’s goals and assists have played an important part at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea’s success in recent years but he hasn’t set the world on fire. He had a great assisting year in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge, scored lots of goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2014/15 season earning him the Premier League Player of the Year award, and with Belgium won the 2018 World Cup Silver Ball for second best player in the tournament.
On the flip side, from 2012 to now, no Golden Boots or Champions League titles and no International trophies with Belgium for Hazard and he’s only managed to finish as high as 8th twice in 2015 and 2018 in Ballon d’Or voting.
Now having seen Hazard’s stats with Chelsea we can compare him to the last ten world record signings and their stats in the seasons leading up to their record-setting fee.