In an exclusive interview with French football magazine Onze Mondial, Eden Hazard gave his strongest and clearest indication yet as to why we can continue to basically ignore all the Real Madrid rumors and nonsense that have been a feature of his career ever since signing for Chelsea six and a half years ago.
The full interview is only available in the print edition of the magazine, but they posted key excerpts on their website, and if we massage them through the Google Translator, we get some lovely little quotes from Chelsea’s perhaps most talented player ever.
Speaking of which, most talented player?
“That, you have to ask the fans. It's not for me to say. I think there are players like Lampard, Drogba, Terry, Petr Cech, Zola [...] players who have made history in this club. Given that, I will not say myself, "I am one of those players". I’m not saying this purely out of respect [but] you have to ask this question from other people.”
When pressed by the interviewer, he adds with a smile:
“Honestly, I may not be far away. It's been six years since I came here, I’ve scored a lot of goals. I’ve won trophies like the English Premier League, the Europa League or the League Cup. From there to say, "I am the greatest player in Chelsea history," that may not be a big stretch. But I feel I have done the time. I hope that if I leave one day, the fans will not forget me. I give the maximum for six years. Maybe I will continue for seven years, eight years ... I do not know.”
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Hazard is already one of the greatest players in Chelsea history, and if he stays around and continues to perform at the levels we’ve grown accustomed to, that can only add weight to his already sizable claim.
Will he stay? That’s always the question, isn’t it? While, Hazard, like any professional player, will not commit to any future with 100 per cent certainty, he makes it pretty obvious that he’s not going anywhere (the “for now” is implied, as always). He is, after all, “the boss” both in terms of controlling his successes on the pitch and controlling his future off of it.
“I have always been like that [not looking to move] when everything goes well. When you change, it's because something is not well. If in your job everything is great and you're the boss, you move? Why would you want to move? You're not going to change, right? Besides, you know everyone, you're good, all that. That's what happened to me in Lille. I knew everyone, it was the best. And when I felt that I had to change, I left. And here at Chelsea, it's the same thing. This is my sixth year. I have my family who is there. My wife and children feel great. I am not far from Belgium so my relatives and my parents or my brothers can come quite often. I am in a big club. Every year, I win almost a trophy. On the pitch, it's going really well, too.”
After the 2015-16 season, when everything went wrong at Chelsea, Hazard talked about making sure that if he ever did leave Chelsea, he’d leave it on a high note — that he’d not slink away after such a terrible 12 months, wanting to make things right with the fans first and foremost. After two league titles and a couple cups, there’s not much that he’d need to make right, in fairness. And obviously any high note from here on out would have to be the Champions League, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d want to leave if Chelsea did win it — after all, his other guiding principle is not changing things when things are going well. But he’d definitely would want to go out on a high note.
“It's not easy to win the Champions League. Maybe I will never win it! Of course I would like to do like Didier Drogba who left after winning the Champions League. It would be nice to do that. It would make for a beautiful ending. A bit like the one in Lille where I left on a treble, you see? It's very beautiful. But I do not really think about that. I just want to give the maximum. If I do not win the Champions League, it will be like that, it will be my story. In any case, I will do everything to win.”
After joking about talking to Chelsea upper management about getting Zidane in as the next coach and laughing about how Neymar’s blown transfer fees into the stratosphere and that he himself would be worth at least €300m (“I must not say too much or Chelsea will never sell me”), Hazard addressed the constant Real Madrid rumors with perhaps the most concrete answer he’s ever given about them.
“You know, it's been like that since I started in Lille. In January, we talk about Real and PSG. It has often been the PSG elsewhere. After July / August, it's the same thing: "Eden will leave". And finally, I’ve always stayed. So, at one point, you have to tell the truth to people: Eden will leave the day he wants to leave and that's it. This is not because the media say: Hazard will go to Real Madrid that I will inevitably go to Real Madrid. I'm used to it, I do not pay attention anymore.”
Hazard will leave the day he wants to leave. That day appears to be nowhere near, and with contract talks coming up after the season, it will hopefully never arrive.