Chelsea starlet Eden Hazard's electric debut
Posted: 21 August 2012 Time: 3:21 pm
Eden Hazard's Premier League debut suggested that the hype is justified. The £32-million summer signing from Lille made an instant impact with two assists in the opening six minutes in a 2-0 win over Wigan.
The 21-year-old Belgian spent the majority of last season leading whichever media outlet was willing to listen a merry dance – on Sunday, it was Wigan's hapless defence that struggled to keep tabs on the former Lille forward.
Hazard will, of course, face sterner tests than the one presented by a disjointed Latics side, for whom Ivan Ramis endured an altogether different first experience of life in the Premier League, but Chelsea's headline summer signing already looks poster-boy material.
How long would it take him to settle? Could he cope with the physical demands of the Premier League? Would he be on the same wavelength as his teammates? All legitimate questions. All dispelled within an electric opening six-minute burst.
After just two minutes and with the cumbersome Ramis backing into him, Hazard pirouetted with the nimbleness of an Olympic gymnast, transferred the ball from left to right foot and without hesitation rolled the ball into the path of the onrushing Branislav Ivanovic.
Four minutes later, buoyed by his opening gambit, Hazard felt confident enough to take on Maynor Figueroa for strength. A positive dart took him into the penalty area where his progress was interrupted by Ramis' clumsy tackle. Two Chelsea goals. Two Hazards assists. Too good for Wigan.
With that in mind Gary Caldwell set about attempting to reduce the Belgian's influence with a frankly murderous challenge that would have seen one of Hazard's illustrious predecessors, Didier Drogba, writhing in agony.
Such was the veracity of Caldwell's thuggish attempt to win the ball, Hazard could have been forgiven for indulging in the histrionics that tarnished Drogba's goalscoring legacy.
Instead, he merely accepted his Scottish tormentors roughhouse brand of justice and continued to buzz around threateningly, immediately striking up a rapport with Juan Mata, a partnership that will prove central to Chelsea’s chances of success this season.
In truth, the remaining 50 minutes of his debut were uneventful by contrast, as Roberto Di Matteo opted to unleash another of his lavish summer recruits in the shape of Oscar – a substitution which summed up the change in ethos.
The 'hold what we have' mentality that has characterised much of Chelsea's success since Roman Abramovich rolled into town appears to be a thing of the past, with Hazard’s brand of trickery and imagination at the head of the revolution.
With the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo having departed these shores, the self-anointed 'best league in the world' is in need of a new poster boy.
For all of the vast sums of money that Manchester City have spent in search of domestic domination only Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure come close to fitting that bill, while Manchester United have poached from a rival in the pursuit of a headline capture.
The emergence of Paris Saint-Germain as a financial superpower means that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unlikely to ever grace the Premier League, while Ronaldo and Fabregas are, most likely, gone for good.
On first competitive viewing, it is a blessing that Hazard chose the Premier League – only Ivan Ramis is likely to disagree at this juncture.