LOSC Lille's Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Toulouse FC
Internationals

EuroStars: Eden Hazard (Belgium)

EuroStars: Eden Hazard (Belgium)

Internationals
Publish on 05/30 at 02:30 - E. DEVIN

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In another of our series celebrating the 2024 European Championships, we’ll focus on a player from each of the 24 countries participating (except for France). These legends have achieved success with their countries and in Ligue 1, and have helped to make the game in France what it is today: exciting, fast-paced and cosmopolitan.

While Belgium have never won a major tournament in the modern era, their only title being the 1920 Olympics, they have had two notable “golden eras.” The first was in the 1980s, as the team finished as runners-up at the 1980 European Championships and reached the semifinals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. More recently, the last decade has seen another strong spell of play from the Red Devils, including a third-place finish at the World Cup in 2018.

Many of the key players from these sides - the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and others are nearing the end of their careers, but perhaps no player from Belgium’s recent run of good form has captured the imagination like Eden Hazard. A winner of every major prize in club football through his later spells at Chelsea and Real Madrid, the youngster from La Louvière was Kylian Mbappé before Kylian Mbappé, bursting on to the scene as a teenager and helping LOSC Lille, his first professional club, win an unlikely set of honors.



Now retired, the latter half of his career undone by injuries, Hazard remains one of the most sparkling talents to have emerged from the French top flight in the last twenty years. The son of two professional footballers, Hazard was one of four siblings, two of whom joined him in having careers as professionals. As a youngster, Hazard was already looking south of the border, idolising Zinedine Zidane: “As a player there's no comparison, I have so much respect for Zidane, he's my idol. It's thanks to him I started playing.”

A technically gifted player like his idol, Hazard broke through with Lille under Rudi Garcia, playing on the wing in a 4-3-3. After making his debut at the age of 16 in 2007, the following year was Hazard’s breakout campaign as helped the club finish fifth while winning the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. The next season saw the team improve by a place, finishing fourth — just a point away from the UEFA Champions League places, but it was 2010/11 where Hazard cemented himself as a true legend of the game in France.



Despite scoring just seven goals, Hazard was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year, and was the true heartbeat of Les Dogues’ attack, adding ten assists as he linked with Moussa Sow and Gervinho to help the team to an incredible double, winning the league by eight points and winning the Coupe de France over Paris Saint-Germain. An even more impressive individual season followed, as he scored 20 goals and added 16 goals, helping his side finish third in 2011/12.

His departure to Chelsea that summer was expected, and his time in London was also one of success, and while his final years at Real Madrid were limited by injury, he would help his side to a full set of trophies, including a Champions League and league double in 2022. Retired as of last autumn, he returned to Lille in March to help dedicate a new training pitch in his name, firmly underscoring his legendary status.

 

>> EuroStars: Josip Skoblar (Croatia)

 

>> Eden Hazard’s emotional return to Lille