Chelsea’s Eden Hazard: Ballon d’Or ambitions and how he achieves them 0

“I always said it, from when I was little, that it’s my dream to win the Ballon d’Or. Chelsea gave me the chance to be seen on the world stage, so if I play well I could be seen as a potential Ballon d’Or winner in the future.”

(Evening Standard)

That’s Eden Hazard, discussing his future ambitions and hopes of one day putting the Ballon d’Or on his mantelpiece.

The Belgian has all the talent required to win European football’s premier individual award, but given the state of the continental game at the moment it will take more than just ‘playing well’ to do that.

The Ballon d’Or’s voting process has been discussed at length over the last few days, and accusations of reputation-bias have been thrown around very liberally. While such an accusation isn’t unfounded, it is a bit of a simplification: certain players will always, year-on-year, be in the conversation for the award irrespective of how well they actually play. For example, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo absolutely deserved his recognition this year, Leo Messi success in the balloting probably owed more to his success in past seasons than it did in 2013 - the Argentine is associated with greatness, and that probably over-shadowed what was - by his own stratospheric standards - a fairly disappointing and injury-disrupted year.

The problem for Eden Hazard currently, is that he doesn’t play for one of the fashionable European teams. As shown by the FIFPro Team Of The Year, performances alone aren’t really enough to guarantee inclusion and some individuals greatly benefit from - again - past reputation and the standing of their teams. Given Borussia Dortmund’s success in 2013, for example, it was baffling not to see the voters find a place in the eleven for any of Ilkay Gundogan, Robert Lewandowski, or Mats Hummels at the expense of name-players like Xavi or Sergio Ramos. The latter two may well be exceptional footballers, but neither really performed to the extent of their ability over the past twelve months.

If Hazard is ever to win the Ballon d’Or in the current climate, not only must he enjoy a period of sustained, exceptional form, but his statistics over that period must also elevate him clearly above the competition and appeal to the casual voter - we have to accept that a lot of these votes are cast by people who have a tendency to watch the game in quite a narrow way, shown by the forward-bias in the voting, and so providing tangible and obvious evidence of form is vital.

But beyond that, if Hazard is to stay at Chelsea, he’s as reliant on his teammates as he is himself for his Ballon d’Or hopes; for a Chelsea player to gain continental recognition, the side would not only have to win the domestic title but they would also need to win the European Cup again - with that individual playing a starring role in both campaigns.

That’s not necessarily fair, but it is realistic - Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona hold the game’s attention in a vice-grip, and Hazard would have to be part of something truly exceptional to change that.

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