Eden Hazard is one of the French academy system’s finest exports in the past decade but he could be the man to end Didier Deschamps’s bid for World Cup glory.
Born to two footballing parents in the Belgian municipality of Braine-le-Comte, Hazard’s reputation spread across the border and saw him snapped up by Lille at the age of just 14.
Two years later Hazard made his professional debut in Ligue 1 and went on to become French football’s brightest talent, twice winning the league’s player of the year prize and leading Lille to a Ligue 1 and Cup double in 2010-11.
When a big-money move inevitably came, it was Chelsea who won the race in 2012 with a o32 million ($43 million) capture that now seems like a bargain.
In six seasons in England, Hazard has won two more league titles and won plenty of admirers. But some doubt whether he has the desire to back up his immense talent and challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the world’s best player.
So far in Russia, Hazard looks like a man on a mission to ensure Belgium’s so-called golden generation live up to their billing by bringing home the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history.
Handed the armband by Roberto Martinez despite Vincent Kompany’s return from injury, the Spaniard has drawn out Hazard’s leadership qualities.
“I think Eden is in a great moment of his career,” Martinez said before the tournament. “Look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership he never finds it difficult to show for the ball.”