x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Eden Hazard shows signs

There was a fluidity to Belgium when they interchanged positions, which suited the quick, bright Belgium playmaker.

Eden Hazard of Belgium in the ball during the international friendly match between England and Belgium.
Eden Hazard of Belgium in the ball during the international friendly match between England and Belgium.

It only took Chelsea a fortnight to consign the most glorious night in their history to the past.

Three of the Champions League winners are searching for new clubs. The guard has been changed, the cheques are being signed and the next generation readied. So this, in a way, was a welcome to London, if not his new home of Stamford Bridge, for Eden Hazard.

The precocious Belgian will cost Chelsea £32 million (Dh180.5m). He may man the left flank for the European champions. It is almost certain he will not lead the line, as he did at the start against England. Belgium's lack of a natural striker was apparent in their lack of incision and meant their most talented player was thrust further forward.

Or, at least, he was sometimes. There was a fluidity to Belgium when they interchanged positions, which suited the quick, bright Hazard. Rather than being a fixed point in attack, he tended to drop off, sometimes supplying the pass for advancing colleagues.

He darted wide, too, to set off on mazy solo runs. One ended abruptly when he was clattered by Ashley Cole, a future club colleague. It was a sign England were determined to pay close attention to him.

Hazard threatened with a curler Joe Hart held and then a well-judged pass to Marouane Fellaini, who was also thwarted by the goalkeeper.

Both came from the No 10 position, a central creative role, which should offer a lesson to Chelsea's next manager, whoever he may be. Hazard is better when deeper or with a roving brief. While he was a target for many a club, he is no target man.

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