Eden Hazard has made no secret of the fact that he hopes to play in to the Premier League next season. What’s the best team for him to move to?
The Belgian schemer is one of the great “up and comers” on the European scene at the moment, coveted by all the big teams and enjoying a great period of success with Lille. Detailed analysis and research (“cough” – youtube) bear out that he is a player of extraordinary talent who in the right team and right conditions can turn a game on his head. However any manager eager to fork out needs to think carefully about the standard of the league he is coming from:
1. Yes, Lyon have dominated domestically for a long time, but that reign appears over and never translated into continental success.
2. For all the talk of PSG becoming a global success, at this stage it is just talk
3. When did a French team last win the Champion's League?
4.Players moving on from Ligue 1 have had mixed fortunes (for every Cabaye and Cisse there is a Benzema)
And perhaps most damning of all
5. Ligue 1 is a league where Joe Cole seems to be doing well – a position he hasn’t enjoyed for four years.
Regardless of these concerns Hazard still seems a good bet for a summer purchase and some chairman with too much cash will no doubt take a punt on him. So where’s best for him to go? He will likely want to go to a team competing in Europe next season, so at the time of writing, these were the teams in contention:
· Manchester City – do they really need another wideman? They already struggle to accommodate the likes of Nasri and Johnson. Potentially it may be “one off, one on” with Johnson moving on, as Mancini does like to have the latest big names at his disposal. Hazard might struggle to be a regular in this team and should be wary of becoming a “bit part” player. David Silva is the creative heartbeat of the team and it is unlikely there is room for another player in the first X1 to be given the same freedom.
· Manchester United – if as seems likely Paul Scholes hangs up the boots, United will be crying out for a creative central midfielder to pull the strings alongside the holding play of Carrick or Fletcher (if he returns). Hazard is naturally left sided but could he be moved into a more central role? It would seem a risky move, although he could claim the left hand flank for himself longer term post-Giggs if a central role didn’t work out. He should be wary though of other creative widemen who have never cemented themselves in the first team. The likes of Park and Valencia are the current crop - in the team one week, out the next – but there is a long history that Hazard should be wary of. That said he would be a good acquisition and the thought of him feeding Rooney and Welbeck is an appealing one.
· Arsenal – seem to be the best fit in terms of footballing philosophy, and Wenger has done well with previous purchasing from Ligue 1. However he may feel the transfer fee is too high and with Oxlade-Chamberlain coming through this season, Hazard may be seen as an unnecessary indulgence.
· Spurs – White Hart Lane could be in for an interesting summer should Tottenham not gain a European berth for next season. Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart all have itchy feet and a year of only domestic football may not be enticing enough to retain their services. Adebayor is no sure thing to return and who knows whether Redknapp will continue? Should they finish outside the top four then Spurs are probably not an option for Hazard, but should they qualify for Champions league football and thereby retain their big name players, then expect them to make a serious bid. Hazard is on record as admiring the Spurs culture and tactics, so it seems a rumour with some legs to it.
· Newcastle: A midfield of Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Hazard would be the most mouthwatering in the premiership, and Newcastle are undoubtedly on the up, but are they “big name” enough? (Apologies to Toon fans – my team Liverpool are in the same boat at the moment, so it's not personal). Personally I think it would be a great move and would make Newcastle a real force to be reckoned with, however Mike Ashley is into cheap under the radar buys so unlikely to shell out the 20 mill-plus that it will cost them to take Hazard to Tyneside.
· Chelsea: would be a good fit aesthetically, probably not an issue as far as cost, and could be an appealing destination if they can win in Munich next week. However with Juan Mata in the team already he may be deemed an unnecessary purchase.
I also declare my bias and personal affiliation by mentioning Liverpool – not a realistic contender to purchase him unfortunately – but by season 2015 on my Fifa 12 team, playing on the left hand side of a Liverpool midfield of Gerrard/Brunt, Vidal, and Gourcuff, he is the standout player across the league. Based on that totally accurate and realistic scenario, Hazard will be a Premier League legend within three seasons and so should be looked at seriously for purchase this season.
Where should he go?
Eden Hazard would be best served by going to Manchester United or Newcastle/ Spurs, depending on which of the latter teams make it into Europe for next season. He could be surplus at Chelsea, Man City or Arsenal, so should move to one of the other teams, Spurs being probably the best choice for him.