The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge has predictably thrown up plenty of talking points. Never one to shy away from attention or the media, Mourinho has run down touchlines at Old Trafford, slid to his knees at the Camp Nou, battled with Marca and their ‘free Casillas’ propaganda, and has declared himself the ‘Happy One’ upon returning to Stamford Bridge thrusting himself into the spotlight once more.
One of the most talked about points this summer, and indeed at the start of the season, has been the future of Juan Mata, who most Chelsea fans adore, and someone who would not be short of suitors should Mourinho really decide he no longer needs the Spaniard this summer. The Mata saga, coupled with the future of the Angry and Confused turned Appreciative and Supported One, has seen what would otherwise be a rather intriguing issue fall by the wayside.
The future of Eden Hazard and his role in the Chelsea team stands on the edge of a knife. Hazard has been earmarked by Mourinho as ‘his man’ and has the chance to either become Mourinho’s equivalent of the next Joe Cole, or the next Cristiano Ronaldo. Not necessarily in terms of the way he plays, but in terms of what he means to the side and how vital he becomes to Mourinho and his plans.
Whilst there is no doubt that the talent possessed by Hazard is mesmerising, he undoubtedly has a side to him that brings back recollections of Jose Mourinho talking about Joe Cole, referring to the ‘two sides’ possessed by the player.
As ball boys up and down the country now live in fear of stalling too long before throwing Hazard the ball, anyone who has followed the former Lille player’s career closely can attest to his flashes of temper. A temper does not necessarily translate into being a bad thing however, should it be channelled effectively and red cards are not a feature of Hazards play. Even if they were, one would wonder if Mourinho would even see this as a big issue – managing Pepe and Sergio Ramos for a few seasons aside, Jose is no stranger to a suspension or two himself, although trying to sneak Hazard onto the field in a laundry basket may prove slightly trickier than getting himself into a dressing room.
One thing Mourinho cannot abide however is players who are lazy, sloppy, wasteful in possession and above all, those who do not track back. The lack of work rate off the ball is widely thought to be one of the main issues Mourinho has with Mata, and a reason why Oscar has taken to life under Mourinho like a duck to water. Even a player as talented as Cristiano Ronaldo has run into bother with Mourinho over tracking back from time to time.
During Chelsea’s pre season campaign, three things were clear to see when it came to Hazard. Firstly, Mourinho had identified him as his star man. Secondly, he needed to work harder than ever before. Finally, should Mourinho fail to see Hazard do this, he would be discarded quicker than a betting slip with Fernando Torres as first scorer on it.
Mourinho is never one to keep his thoughts to himself, and spoke about Hazard at the start of pre season, and his words could not have been more telling. He noted: “Eden has been with us from the start of pre-season and at the moment I’m trying to adapt Eden into everything I think a top player should have,
“For example, Hazard did some defensive work in the friendly against Inter Milan that he usually doesn’t.
“He is a top talent, but it’s one thing being a top talent and another being a top player. And I want him to be a top player.
“Don’t be up and down but to always be at the top of his game because he has the conditions to be a top player.”
Under both Robbie Di Matteo and also Rafa Benitez, Hazard displayed flashes of brilliance – his goal in the dying embers of the home tie against Sparta Prague being prime example of this, but his work rate and consistency were a problem. The perceived lack of effort under RDM will not be an issue under Mourinho – he simply will not allow it.
During his first spell at the helm of the Blues, Mourinho saw the potential in players like Frank Lampard and John Terry and moulded them into the world class stars they became. Other players like Joe Cole had the chance, but never really took it, ending up discarded and on the fringes of the side.
Hazard arguably has more potential than any of the players Mourinho possessed the first time around, outperforming both Messi and Ronaldo in terms of assists last season – but being woefully behind in terms of goals. As we all know, Mourinho is nearly as hard on his players as he is on himself and the better a player, the more he expects.
Some of Mourinho’s greatest triumphs of his career have been not in terms of trophies but how he has managed his players and what he has gotten out of them. Many may have viewed this summer as a cross roads in the career of Juan Mata, but few identified just what this could mean for Hazard.
In a summer when the two clubs who already possess the best talents in world football have added Neymar and Gareth Bale (well hopefully for Real Madrid, whose club shop have already started selling shirts branded with Bale on the back) it could well be the 5 foot 8 young star playing his trade in West London that is the name on everyone’s lips this time next year.
Mourinho ended his comments about Hazard by bluntly stating: “This is what I want, whether I can get it I don’t know.”
Knowing Mourinho, he will be pretty confident that Hazard will deliver and in a pretty special way at that.
Which way will Hazard go? Comment below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.