Foreign correspondent: Eden Hazard

Ligue 1 Conforama


Lille's 18-year-old Belgian wonderkid Eden Hazard has a special talent. Dubbed a "little Messi" by former coach Claude Puel, Hazard confesses to dreaming of one day winning the Ballon d'Or.

Hazard's current prominence owes just a little bit to chance. His late winner at home to Sochaux in Week 23 drew flattering headlines but Hazard was only playing because Brazilian star Michel Bastos was out with a calf problem.

The goal was invaluable and showcased the diminutive forward's talent. By his own admission his first touch to control a long ball was not great but the youngster composed himself, cut in from his left wing berth and planted a perfect shot into the corner of the net to secure a precious three points for his side in their quest for European qualification.

Hazard said: "In coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 we showed our quality. The joy when you win like that is so intense and now we've gone nine games unbeaten."

International debut

Hazard made his international debut as a precocious 17-year-old in a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg last November. He was again named in the Belgian squad for this week's friendly with Slovenia. His second club goal of the season came four days before Luxembourg-Belgium, his third four days before Belgium-Slovenia. Maybe Lille coach Rudi Garcia should try to arrange more international fixtures?

Born in the Belgian town of Louvière on January 7 1991, Hazard made his Lille debut as a 16-year-old against Nancy in November 2007 and scored his first Ligue 1 goal in September 2008 against Auxerre.

Impressive Ligue 1 form enabled him to skip a stage in his international development, jumping from the Under-19 squad to the senior side.

Seventh youngest debutant

An appearance as a 67th minute substitute in Luxembourg made him the seventh youngest player to have been capped by Les Diables Rouges. Hazard joked: "That's not bad, but I would have loved to have been number one!"

His international debut saw him impress observers with his technique, movement and maturity. And he almost scored with his first real touch after a weaving, jinking run.

Hazard said: "I used the ball well but I didn't catch the shot right. I wanted to put more curl on the ball but there was a little bobble just as I went to shoot."

Fresh face

He is a player in a hurry, determined to make an impact. "I wasn't stressed on my international debut. For me playing in front of 10 or 10,000 spectators amounts to the same thing. Now I've tasted international football I want much more of it. The national squad was a bit tired and needed some fresh faces. I try to contribute what I can as a new boy."

Hazard's first thought as he made his international bow was for his family. "As always I didn't want to forget all they've done for me in the past and what they continue to do for me now."

Lille coach Rudi Garcia has used Hazard sparingly this season yet already the ambitious teenager has plundered three Ligue 1 goals from just 383 minutes of action. When Bastos returns to action Hazard is likely to have to renew his acquaintance with the Stadium Lille Métropole bench.

Finding a balance between protecting the player without stunting his development will be one of Garcia's welcome headaches. With a three-year contract signed last autumn and bags of potential, Hazard is a man in a hurry.

More Messi than Scifo

Garcia's predecessor Claude Puel, who left Lille to join champions Lyon last summer, gets the final word on the player he handed a Ligue 1 debut at 16.

"He needs to develop a greater range to his game and become more consistent. Does he make me think of Enzo Scifo? No. He's more like Messi. He's small, can beat players and has a low centre of gravity. He has pure pace and is capable of beating three or four opponents in a flash."

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