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Hazard needs to be Jose's 'Special Ron'

Chelsea FanZoner John Baines has called for Eden Hazard to realise his true potential in his second year at Stamford Bridge.

Last Updated: 19/07/13 at 14:41 Post Comment

Eden Hazard: Enjoyed a strong end to the season

Eden Hazard: Enjoyed a strong end to the season

So according to Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard is the third best player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Now I should imagine there are a fair few people around who would disagree with the 'Special One' on that particular opinion, regardless of the impact the Belgian winger made during his first year in English football.

But in truth Hazard enjoyed a mixed bag of an opening campaign at Chelsea following his £32million summer switch from Lille. The two-time French Footballer of the Year began at a blistering pace but tailed off along with his side over an autumn and winter of discontent.

Plenty of the goals he did get were largely inconsequential, like the blistering fourth in a 4-0 win at Stoke and another beauty which was the seventh of eight scored against Aston Villa.

Aside from that there were the second goals in comfortable home wins against Norwich and Wigan, and even Hazard's strongest admirers must admit that few of his strikes were game changers.

At one point it looked as though the 22-year-old's most newsworthy contribution would be that unsavoury incident involving an over-aged and easily harmed ballboy at Swansea City, but an upturn in form and influence over the final third of the season - coupled with Chelsea securing a third place finish and winning the Europa League - meant there were very few qualms over his contribution from the Blues faithful.

All in all a return of 13 goals was good if not great, yet it was his displays during those arduous months of March, April and May which really whetted the appetite for more.

Even with Juan Mata pivotal in pulling the strings, it was Hazard's swift soft shoe shuffle and slaloming runs that frequently added an x-factor to Chelsea's game, creating countless opportunities for himself and his team-mates and generally causing chaos for any defence who had the misfortune of handling him.

As time wore on Hazard just got better and better. He was unplayable against the continents second string in the Europa League and domestically he ran rings around West Ham, led Manchester United a merry dance in an FA Cup sixth-round double header and completely outshone eventual PFA Player and Young Player of the Year Gareth Bale in a showdown against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Like one of those musicians who die at 27, Hazard's standing was enhanced amongst the Chelsea fans when his season was prematurely ended with a hamstring injury after setting up a couple for Frank Lampard in the crucial victory at Aston Villa.

The Blues looked definitively less dangerous without their wily wide man against Benfica in the Europa League final, and the fact his absence was felt so much in an ultimately successful cause further highlights his importance moving into another Mourinho era.

The Portuguese coach isn't particularly short of options in and around Hazard's area, but his kind - albeit over enthusiastic - praise of Hazard suggests the Belgian international will play a central role in Mourinho's plans next term.

But central may well have to be metaphorical rather than literal, with Mata likely to operate as playmaker and Hazard starting out wide.

Aside from a haul of 20 goals and countless assists, Mata was the cerebral cog in much of Chelsea's functioning, linking the play up and orchestrating moves from a variety of positions all over the pitch.

Hazard has previously spoken of his desire to occupy the 'Number 10' berth, but in reality playing wide as one of a front three is an unrestricted role and gives the holder free reign to do as he pleases.

For the majority of last season Hazard was allowed autonomous licence to drift from side to side across the front so he could influence proceedings and give Chelsea a cutting edge in the final third that much of Mata's industry deeper down the pitch brings.

In theory the remit Hazard will be given and what he's backed to do is not wholly dissimilar to what Mourinho got from Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

The world's most expensive footballer seldom plays through the middle as a playmaker or central striker, but this didn't impact on his freedom to stray wherever necessary to score and create.

And score he did. Ronaldo notched 168 times in 164 games under his compatriot at Madrid and in a recent interview Hazard claimed his dream was to "score 50 or even 60 goals like Messi and Ronaldo. They have shown it is possible, so maybe I can do the same."

That tally might be a bit far fetched and he will have to show a greater killer instinct and hunger for goals to get even half of those numbers, but after a 12 month acclimatisation to English football, the foundations are firmly in place for Eden Hazard to make himself one of the Premier League's premiere men.

You can follow me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10 and also don't forget to follow @FanZone on Twitter.

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