From the very first time I saw Eden Hazard step onto the hallowed turf of Stamford Bridge, I knew he was the one. He had arrived and immediately took over the mantle of my favourite player.
I choose my favourites very carefully going back to Charlie Cooke, Pat Nevin and then Gianfranco Zola. The similarities are obvious. All crowd pleasers, with technical abilities that transcend mere mortals.
You will all know, that I have a distinct passion for my beloved Chelsea but very few know that my favourite player of all time was actually none other than George Best. This is the first time since 1965 that I have owned up to this fact. What Best could do with a football pitch, I have rarely witnessed. And I have watched in awe when others such as Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, Riveira, Stoichkov cast their spells during my love of football.
But for me, George Best used to haunt me, such was his skill and God-given right to rule above all other footballers. I hated him because he played for Manchester United but could not help but admire him even as he scored against us.
Maradona for all his faults was a footballing genius and Messi is still simply mesmerising.
Then Eden Hazard came into my footballing world and my footballing world starts and ends at my beloved Chelsea. The only player to move me physically from my seat in anticipation of a deft touch, a shimmy or movement so obvious to do yet so impossible for most of us to even think about. Just for those that might start wondering, this is a footballing love. It is not the love that I have for my son as I could not love anyone more than my son, but this love for Eden is a footballing father and son love.
Ever since that first sighting, I proclaimed Stamford Bridge as the Garden of Eden.
In my heart, I would be his footballing father from afar. How many fathers around the globe wish that their sons were in Eden’s shoes. It’s natural. I’m blessed with a son of my own and I wouldn’t change him for the universe but it is natural to sometimes think, if only!
How is it possible that one diminutive man could possess such magic. What potions we could all mix if we had some of his supernatural skills.
He has dazzled us and frustrated us in no small measures but he remains at the pinnacle of Chelsea.
What pain he endures each time he is hacked down and gets up again awaiting the next attack upon his body. It must be soul destroying and as a father, I wonder what I would do to protect him.
The almost daily reports of Hazard waiting for Real Madrid to realise his childhood dream are mischievous but merit consideration. As a father what would I do to help him realise his dream?
I read the same stories as you and am touched by Eden’s loyalty. He is obviously torn between his love for Chelsea and his ultimate dream. He has given as much as he could to Chelsea but still harbours the hope that one day Real will come calling or that Chelsea will blink first in the transfer window shoot out.
For Chelsea plc, Eden is a commodity. A very alluring commodity. The decision is whether to cash in that commodity or lose it through lack of foresight. Eden going on the cheap would be the final death nail in the much-lauded business acumen of Chelsea plc. This situation should never have arisen. We should have created a team befitting of Eden’s talents instead of making ad-hoc transfer decisions to meet homegrown quotas or to meet FFP regulations. Others ignored them whilst we tried to comply.
The boom and bust of successive managerial changes and inadequate transfer policy has culminated in this situation.
Meanwhile, I still think of Eden as my footballing son and ponder what should I do as his footballing father.
My worry for Eden, is that although he wants Real Madrid, there is nothing to suggest that they want him badly enough. Why did they not bid openly. I know that it has been suggested that they bid last year whilst Zidane was there but if Real wanted him, they would have got him.
We all know that when Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling, there can only be one outcome. It’s a historical fact.
Why do Real need to allow Eden to wind down his contract and get him on the cheap? How very UnREAL of them. Is it because Eden in their mind he is actually a second or third option? Is it because post Cristiano Ronaldo, that Real are too in transition and can no longer maintain the Galactico era?
Surely, Mbappe or Neymar are the ones that they want but perhaps the mighty Real simply cannot afford either of them and have set their sights lower just in case? I don’t know, but my experience seems to suggest that Edens’ dream move is more one-sided than he imagines.
But, it’s his dream move, so what would I do?
As I type this, a tear trickles down my cheek as reality dawns upon me. For if I am true to myself, I know what I would do if it were my own son. There would be no hesitation-(much pain)-but no hesitation.
I would look my son in the eyes, we would exchange special looks that only a father and son can exchange, before telling him to go and find his heaven.
Eden celebrates his Chelsea goals by beating his hand on the famous Chelsea badge. I would ask him to show me that he still has the love for Chelsea that he has displayed in the last six years. And in a momentarily exchange of glances, a father knows when it is time to let go.
And if I felt that he would stay if I asked to and not because he wanted to, then I should be man enough to discharge my parental obligation.
I still hold so many mesmerising moments delivered by this man that I can survive a lifetime basking in the knowledge of having witnessed them. The two that always bring a smile to my face are the goal against Arsenal when he effectively retired Coquelin and the goal against Tottenham when he broke their hearts and stopped them from winning the League. That was the sweetest of the lot because, I saw from the stands, opposition players, physically trying to cause this magician harm. The ‘Battle of the Bridge’ was not for the faint-hearted and Eden showed all his majesty and love for Chelsea in a way that only he can.
That one tear that started trickling down my cheek has now turned into a full-scale monsoon cascading onto the keyboard but that’s how this old man feels right now.
I could not live with myself in the knowledge that Eden could one day turn around and decry that he sacrificed his dream for Chelsea. I could not look him in the eye knowing that I had denied him his burning obsession.
Remember my footballing son, the Garden of Eden will always be a home for you and you are enshrined in our history as probably our most naturally skilfull player of all time. I pray that your dream of playing for Real Madrid and winning the Balon d’Or come true and most of all that it gives you the happiness that you crave and surely deserve.
Although no footballer is bigger than my beloved Chelsea, in this case, Eden, I will say that you are!!
Go on my footballing son, make us proud.
Contribution by Navid Deen
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