Before Robin Van Persie and ahead of both Luka Modric and Lucas Moura there is one player who topped the wish list of the top clubs in England and Europe for all of last season.
His name, Eden Hazard.
The Lille playmaker was the most in demand player for months; it was an accepted fact in Europe that Hazard had outgrown Lille and a bigger stage was required for his sublime talents. Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Tottenham were all involved in a negotiating frenzy to try snap up the player.
After the Manchester derby in May, it was reported that Hazard had chosen between one of the two Manchester clubs but then on the night before the Champions League final his representative told Chelsea they could still get him if they were willing to meet his demands and in a matter of days Hazard was a Chelsea player for a fee of £32m pounds and a deal that will cost up to £78m if you throw in wages and other fees.
Why is Hazard so important? He is ridiculously talented, quick, intelligent and skilful, he is like Iniesta and Ozil but he is quicker than both. Hazard can play wide but that is not really his best position, he is a classic number 10. Don’t take my word for it, this is how former France international Duggary described him, “Faster than Zidane, more technique than Thierry Henry.”
A player of Hazard’s quality behind and around Fernando Torres is potentially as explosive a pairing as Iniesta and Messi, yes I am suggesting Hazard is that good, although that depends on what kind of form Torres brings to the new season.
Eden Hazard is without question the biggest capture of the transfer market, everyone coveted him, Abramovich clearly more than the rest. At only 21, Hazard is a player that can give a decade of service at the top level and that makes whatever Chelsea paid for him a bargain.
As to whether he will play in his preferred position at Chelsea is a question that only time will answer since that is Juan Mata’s current position and the Spaniard, unlike Hazard, is not equally effective or as devastating when pushed wide.
Chelsea’s second major signing, the Brazilian Oscar, in my view is equally a vital piece of business. A graceful attacking midfielder of slim build with the ability to dictate the pace of a game with his touch and passing, it is little wonder the Kaka comparisons are coming fast and thick.
Roman Abramovich and Roberto Di Matteo are building a new Chelsea, one with less muscle and solidity and more creativity, skill and flair. This is why Drogba had to go and probably why Frank Lampard will not remain the influence he has been or an automatic choice.
This is why Abramovich wanted Guardiola and with these kind of players, there is still talk of a deal for striker Hulk, it is not too far fetched to imagine that when the bearded Spanish genius recharges his batteries properly, he will waltz into Stamford Bridge and take on his new challenge, making Chelsea the best in the world.
It’s harsh for Roberto Di Matteo but I think even he knows he only has the Chelsea job because Pep Guardiola turned it down; with the kind of players coming in to Chelsea I doubt the former Barcelona boss can continue to do so for much longer.