This might sound tenuous, but there’s now a maturity to Eden Hazard which he hasn’t always possessed.
When he left Lille, he was a target for half-a-dozen top European sides - three of which were in England - and he chose to reveal his transfer destination on his Twitter account.
It was his Lebron James moment. An ill-judged, attention-seeking, nonsense of a PR stunt and it hinted at a player whose early-career success had gone to his head. It was very dislikeable and, as a personality trait, it was a significant red flag.
Compare that to this, a quote given to reporters during the international break:
“I’m not a top-five player yet. Maybe I’m close to it, but I still have to work on some aspects.
You can only be part of that group if you are decisive in the top games. I start doing that, like I did against Manchester City and Arsenal.
Who are better than me? The two extra-terrestrials, Ronaldo and Messi, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, [Franck] Ribery and [Arjen] Robben. They make the difference almost every game.”
That’s the kind of comment which makes you think that he’s destined for the very top of the game. There isn’t a more devastating combination than talent and humility, because it generally allows a very gifted player to recognise and improve his weaknesses - and that tends to be the difference between ‘very good’ players and the sort Hazard name-checks above.
We may sometimes give Jose Mourinho more praise than he deserves, but you can’t help but notice his fingerprints on this situation. How many times has he critiqued Hazard publicly? How often has he pointed out tiny, seemingly incidental weaknesses in the Belgian? Some players react badly to that kind of management and descend into a sulk, others take it on-board, use it to adjust their mentality and challenge themselves to be as good as their talent allows.
Hazard sounds like the latter sort - and that’s very encouraging.
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