Where Does Chelsea's Eden Hazard Rank Among the World's Best Attackers?

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on October 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

As far as endorsements go, they do not come much better than Jose Mourinho's praise for Eden Hazard last week.

"It was by far our best away performance of the season,” Mourinho said on the back of Chelsea's 4-3 victory over Sunderland, per The Telegraph. “We played fantastic football. We created, we were dynamic and we had a special Hazard."

Indeed, they did.

That night, Hazard was in inspired form for his team. Not only did he earn himself an assist, crossing for Frank Lampard to head home his equalizer, but he also scored twice to make sure of the three points.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Manager Jose Mourinho of Chelsea speaks to Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Chelsea at Carrow Road on October 6, 2013 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Get
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Those goals took his tally to eight for the season in all competitions, making him Chelsea's top scorer in the process.

His form this term is exactly what his club would have wanted. After an encouraging first season at Stamford Bridge, Hazard is evolving into a more prolific goal threat and as a result, Chelsea are more dangerous on the attack.

The Blues have concerns with the form of their strikers, yet with Hazard playing the way he is, a lack of goals from the front men isn't proving as much of an issue as perhaps it should be.

His performances this season have been encouraging, although at 22, it's clear the Belgian has much more to perfect if he is to scale the heights of his peers.

"[Hazard's] ambition from first to last [against Sunderland] was, for me, the first time [I have seen this from him]," Mourinho continued in The Telegraph.

"Sometimes he does incredible things then disappears from the game. A bit like a kid enjoying it. Today he was fantastic throughout."

And herein lays the main concern with Hazard—consistency.

Mourinho's analysis from the Sunderland victory was much more than a summary of one game in isolation—it epitomised his brief Chelsea career since his £32 million move from Lille.

Hazard was phenomenal in the early stages of 2012-13, blowing away Chelsea's opposition who simply didn't know how best to deal with his threat. As the season developed, however, his form dipped until the latter stages, when he rediscovered his Midas touch.

It's akin to his form in matches: Hazard starts well, disappears before finishing strongly.

It's a trait that repeats itself in football. Young player shows his brilliance in flashes before eventually becoming the finished article and a world beater.

In more recent times it has happened with Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale.

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 30:  Gareth Bale (L) of Real Madrid CF celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring Real's opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on October 30, 2013 in Madri
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Both earned plaudits for their potential as teenagers, but it took them more than a few good performances to become the players who have commanded combined transfer fees of over £160 million.

Those fees alone rank them among the world's best attackers, sitting alongside Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or rivals Franck Ribery and Lionel Messi.

That trio of stars are a world apart from others right now, including Hazard. They not only influence the way their respective teams play, they dictate the oppsoition's tactics.

Against Sunderland, Hazard did that. Gus Poyet was forced to place two markers on him in a bid to stop him from influencing the game. It did very little and Hazard was just as destructive as ever.

It's that in which he must achieve on a weekly basis to be regarded in the same class.

The Belgian has youth on his side, however, and if Chelsea continue to nurture his vast talents, there will only be one conclusion to the debate surrounding where he ranks among the world's best.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes


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