Eden Hazard: The Genius Who Played Football as a Passion, Not a Profession

Eden Hazard, a name synonymous with footballing artistry and pure joy on the pitch, has decided to call time on his illustrious 16-year professional career.

The reason behind this unexpected retirement is simple: the game that he once loved had lost its luster. Hazard’s passion for football had waned, and that, for him, was a deal-breaker.

For Hazard, the beautiful game has always been about enjoyment. From the days when he kicked a ball around the family garden as a child, his primary goal was to have fun. So it comes as no surprise that his retirement announcement on social media emphasized his dream “to play and have fun on pitches all around the world.”

Despite his recent injury struggles during his tenure at Real Madrid, Eden Hazard leaves behind a legacy as one of the Premier League’s greatest forwards. He’s a legend at both Chelsea and for his national team, Belgium.

The statistics speak for themselves: 110 goals in 352 club appearances, two Premier League titles, two Europa League trophies, an FA Cup, and individual awards such as the PFA and FWA Player of the Year in the 2014-15 season. On the international stage, he contributed 33 goals in 126 games, helping lead Belgium’s “Golden Generation” to a third-place finish in the 2018 World Cup.

Hazard was an artist on the field, known for his incredible dribbling skills. In his prime, he was a force to be reckoned with, possessing a low center of gravity, extraordinary ball-handling skills, speed, intelligence, and an unwavering desire to win.

His opponents often found themselves unable to get near him, let alone dispossess him, as exemplified by his breathtaking solo goal while running from the halfway line against Arsenal in 2017.

Hazard’s football journey began when he was discovered by Lille’s scouts in 2005, and he made his professional debut for the club at the tender age of 16. In Ligue 1, he remains one of only two players to have earned the titles of Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year multiple times—a distinction he shares with Paris Saint-Germain’s star, Kylian Mbappé.

His extraordinary talent propelled Lille to a league and cup double in 2011, but it was clear that he had outgrown Ligue 1. Scoring 20 goals in 38 league appearances during his final season, Hazard made a high-profile move to Chelsea in 2013 for approximately €40 million. The decision was a perfect fit, offering him a pivotal role where he could be the star player, and he indeed became the main man, winning numerous trophies and leaving Premier League defenses in his wake.

What set Hazard apart was his unwavering focus on matches and the pursuit of victory. Training was not his cup of tea, and he often approached it with minimal effort. He thrived on the big occasions, particularly in domestic competitions. This was his true calling.

However, things took an unexpected turn when he joined Real Madrid in 2019. Hazard’s dream was to don the iconic white jersey of Madrid, and the presence of club legend Zinedine Zidane as manager only added to his excitement. Unfortunately, his four years in Spain turned into a nightmare.

Injuries, misunderstandings, disappointments, poor decisions, and failures marred his time at the club, with one glaring omission being his absence from any El Clasico fixture against arch-rivals Barcelona.

Hazard’s first preseason training session with Madrid set the tone for his tenure, as he reported overweight. Although he had a history of enjoying his holidays to the fullest before joining a new team, Madrid’s unforgiving stance on this issue affected his relationship with the club.

In Madrid, he lost touch with his identity as a footballer, despite winning more trophies than ever before, including La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the Club World Cup, and the Champions League. These triumphs never felt truly his own, marking the beginning of the end of his Madrid chapter.

Comparisons with footballing titans Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are unjust; they were relentless machines, while Hazard was a romantic who saw football as a game rather than a job. This distinction might have affected his career, as he appeared to lack the unwavering drive and ambition of the aforementioned duo.

However, Hazard embodied the essence of a “flair” player—a showman and entertainer. Fans flocked to stadiums just to witness his magic on the field. At times, he achieved the seemingly impossible, leaving spectators in awe. As former Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry once noted, Hazard’s audacious moves often left onlookers puzzled until he executed them with brilliance.

Football thrives on players like Hazard, who infuse fun and enjoyment into the game. Although he hasn’t been able to showcase his full potential in recent times, Eden Hazard rightfully takes his place among the footballing greats for his role in spreading the sheer delight of the game throughout his career.