In the summer of 2012 Eden Hazard completed a £32m move from Lille to Chelsea, but the current Real Madrid star’s preference was Arsenal according to his former agent.
Hazard, 30, sealed the lucrative move to Stamford Bridge after establishing himself as one of Ligue 1’s most talented forwards, which culminated in Lille sealing an unexpected Ligue 1 triumph in 2010/11 and secured the Belgian a Ligue 1 Player of the Year award, becoming the youngest player to win the accolade in the process.
Such was Hazard’s burgeoning reputation at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, that every elite club worth their salt were being touted as a possible destination for the silky winger, not least the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’, with Arsenal and Tottenham thought to have been at the front of the queue nearly a decade ago.
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Instead Hazard opted for west London, and he would ultimately go on to reach stratospheric heights in the blue of Chelsea, breaking records left, right and centre, and enjoying a medal-hoovering seven years in the capital, clinching two Premier League titles and two Europa League medals in that time.
However, that tale could have been entirely different if comments made by Hazard’s former representative, John Bico, are anything to go by, with the player’s ex-agent revealing his client — and his family — were eager on a move to the Emirates, but their desires ultimately fell on deaf ears.
Speaking to DH about Hazard’s career, he said: “It was his number one choice [Arsenal]. His father’s number one choice too. But for me, it was a categorical refusal even if I really liked the club, its history.
“Except, that at the time, there were too many young people and too many French people. It would have been a little like Lille.
Did Eden accepted this veto? Hardly, but he did. Arsenal would have been a decision of the heart but not that of a man even if it costs me to say that.
“With the environment there, I’m not sure he would have reached the same maturity as a man but also as a player.”
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Hazard: I grew up watching Arsenal
It’s no surprise really that Hazard’s preferred choice when leaving Lille would have been Arsenal, as he has previously revealed he spent much of his childhood watching the club and idolising club legend Thierry Henry.
“When I was little the team I watched the most was the French national team,” Hazard told On The Front Foot earlier this year.
“For me, the players I looked up to were Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry, and it’s difficult for me to admit because of my relationship with Chelsea, but I really liked the Arsenal team at the time.
“They had players like Robert Pires, [Sylvain] Wiltord and [Patrick] Vieira, so it was mainly French players that I followed growing up.”