How brilliant is Chelsea and Belgium's Eden Hazard?

Absent from the UEFA Champions League but everywhere you look in Chelsea's Premier League campaign, Chelsea's Belgian attacking midfielder may be having his best season yet.

At 26, Eden Hazard may be hitting the finest years of his playing career, the Belgian international in splendid form with Chelsea. Do we love him? Yes, we do.

What they say
"He is a player who has no doubts about himself. He can put any mistakes he's made in a game behind him and score or set up a goal with the next move."
Rudi Garcia, former Lille coach

"When I saw Zidane, he played like his feet were hands.  Eden is like that. The ball sticks to his feet. It's almost impossible to get it off him."
Marc Wilmots, former Belgium coach

"He is already a top player and his evolution has been fantastic. He is still very young and he can become the best."
José Mourinho, former Chelsea manager

"You almost hope Eden Hazard gets diarrhoea [ahead of a Man. City game v Chelsea]. You can have as many tactical plans as you want, but if Eden starts running it's chaos. He's at a level where he decides how good his team are."
Vincent Kompany, Man. City and Belgium defender

"We all know he is a talent, we all know his strengths, he is a really, really talented player – a great man also."
Antonio Conte, Chelsea manager

"He is already one of the best. I want to see him go third on the [Ballon d'Or] list one day soon and I think he'll do it. I think a lot of people, when they see Eden playing, they go: 'Wow what a player!'"
Thorgan Hazard, Mönchengladbach and Belgium midfielder

Current tally
International: 76 appearances, 17 goals
UEFA club competition: 66 appearances, 11 goals
Domestic competition: 364 appearances, 105 goals

Hazard (L) after LOSC's 2011 French Cup success
Hazard (L) after LOSC's 2011 French Cup success©Getty Images

Claims to fame
Lille
• Brought across the border to sign youth terms at Lille in 2005 after being scouted playing for local side Tubize, Hazard made his debut as a substitute at Nancy on 24 November 2007, aged 16.

• The man who brought him to France, LOSC academy head Jean-Michel Vandamme, remembered: "When he signed his first contract, he told me he would be in the first team at 16. I thought: 'He's crazy', but he did it."

• Became LOSC's youngest-ever scorer, aged 17 years and 257 days, when he struck a superb long effort in a 3-2 win at home against Auxerre on 20 September 2008.

• France's players' union made him their young player of the year for 2008/09 – the first foreigner to receive the honour. He became the first back-to-back recipient in 2009/10.

• Zinédine Zidane was a fan early on, saying in 2010: "Eden is skilful and very quick. He will be a major star. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed."

• Was France's players' union player of the year for 2010/11 as Lille landed a domestic double, and retained the honour the next season – only Paris's Pauleta had won it repeatedly before.

• Hit his first senior hat-trick in what proved his last game for LOSC, a 4-1 thrashing of Nancy on 20 May 2012.

Hazard is back to his best with Chelsea
Hazard is back to his best with Chelsea©Getty Images

Chelsea
• Aged 21, he chose to join Chelsea rather than Manchester United. "For me, Chelsea has the best project," he explained. "The team is young and I have a better chance to play."

• Was Chelsea's 2013/14 top scorer with 14 goals, manager José Mourinho saying he was "probably the best young player in the world". He earned the the players' union young player of the season award and came second in the senior vote.

• As Chelsea picked up the 2014/15 championship, Mourinho upgraded him to "one of the top three players in the world"; his peers voted him player of the year.

• Had a wobbly 2015/16, notably enduring a 2,358-minute wait for his 50th Chelsea goal – a penalty in a 5-1 FA Cup defeat of Milton Keynes Dons on 31 January 2016.

Hazard with his armband at UEFA EURO 2016
Hazard with his armband at UEFA EURO 2016©AFP/Getty Images

Belgium
• Returned to Tubize for the opening game of the 2007 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, scoring in a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands. "When I looked around the stadium it looked as if the only people in the stands were friends and family," he told UEFA.com.

• His side went on to reach the semi-finals, losing out to a Spain side featuring David de Gea and Bojan Krkić. Belgium coach Bob Browaeys concluded: "Hazard is a very good player who may have a beautiful future."

• Likened to another La Louviere-born Belgium great, Enzo Scifo, as he came through the Red Devils youth ranks; he made his first senior outing against Luxembourg aged 17 years and 316 days, becoming Belgium's eighth-youngest debutant.

• Disappointed at being substituted against Turkey on 3 June 2011, Hazard left the stadium and was caught on camera eating a hamburger outside while his team-mates were still playing.

• Helped Belgium to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals (their first in 12 years) and made it to the last eight; then – in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany – captained the Red Devils as they stalled at the same stage at UEFA EURO 2016.

What you might not know
• Hazard was born the same day – 7 January 1991 – as another notable athlete, South African runner Caster Semenya.

Thierry Hazard at the local pitch where his sons played
Thierry Hazard at the local pitch where his sons played©Getty Images

• The Hazards are a footballing family; sports teacher parents Thierry (La Louvière) and Carine both played ("I was in her stomach when she was playing; she was three months pregnant," Eden said), as do Eden's younger brothers Thorgan (Gladbach), Kylian (Újpest) and Ethan (Tubize youth). "We could have a great five-a-side team," Eden joked. "My dad still plays. My mum could be manager."

• Carine may have been the biggest influence on Eden's career. "I take after my mum as a player," he said. "My dad played at the back, chilled out, calm on the ball. My mum was a striker."

• A training pitch near the family home helped the brothers hone their skills. Eden said: "It was five metres away, the other side of a little fence. It meant we didn't mess our own lawn up."

• Cookery helps him relax. "There is nothing I like better than going home and cooking my family a nice meal," he said. "I have a good repertoire and I can do quite a few different dishes. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. Obviously we are also well known for beer in Belgium. But I'm a footballer, I don't drink beer."

Hazard and son in 2014
Hazard and son in 2014©Getty Images

• Has been with his wife Natacha Van Honacker – mother of his sons Yannis and Leo – since he was 14; he scared Chelsea fans in 2014 when he suggested she might persuade him to join Paris, saying: "If my wife was to say: 'Honey, I'd like you to go to PSG', I would have to take it into account."

• Amid rumours of Hazard's imminent move to Real Madrid, the Fulham Tattoo Centre wrote: "Chelsea's main man popped in today for a four-hour session. First of many. Started a half-sleeve. Top man, top banter and top, top player. He ain't going nowhere, by the way, Chelsea fans."

Watch Hazard dazzle for Lille
Watch Hazard dazzle for Lille

What he says
"My top five players are Zinédine Zidane, Juan Román Riquelme, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry."

"I want to be the best, but it's not in my head. I just want to enjoy [myself]. If I can be, then I will be the best. If not, it's not a problem. I just want to play. I don't want to be like Messi or Ronaldo. I want to be me."

"I learnt a lot at Lille and experienced a lot of emotion. That's where everything began. I went there at 14, stayed seven years, won titles and played in the UEFA Champions League. I had some very good moments."

"It's good for me to be captain, but I can't be like John Terry. As captain, I don't talk too much. I try to talk with my feet. Maybe the [3-5-2] system has helped me find my form – we tried it in Belgium, now we do it with Chelsea."

Jan Ceulemans in 1980
Jan Ceulemans in 1980©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

What he might achieve yet
• Belgium's caps record (96: Jan Ceulemans) is well within sight for Hazard, still only 26, and he may also surpass the scoring record (30: Bernard Voorhoof, Paul Van Himst).

• Feature in the final of a major UEFA tournament; Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League in Hazard's first term but he missed the final with a hamstring injury.

• Win something big with this highly-rated Belgium team. Hazard said: "My ambition is to lead Belgium to the World Cup, to win something for the country. I hope we can do it but it's still far away."