Football News

“This is not normal” – Eden Hazard names the most-talented player of his career

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:55, 19 February 2024

Former Chelsea and Real Madrid winger Eden Hazard has named the most-talented player he played with during his career, and it’s not a name anyone would have expected.

Hazard announced his retirement in October of last year at the age of 32, with over 600 appearances for Chelsea, Real Madrid and Lille, plus another 126 for Belgium.

During his career, Hazard won five league titles, five domestic cups, two Europa League trophies, the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup. He also finished third with Belgium at the 2018 World Cup, alongside a plethora of individual accolades.

Hazard played under a variety of fantastic managers, including Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Zinedine Zidane and Antonio Conte and, of course, featured in good teams.

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Although Hazard’s time at Real Madrid did not overlap with Cristiano Ronaldo’s, the Belgian still shared a pitch with some of football’s biggest stars. As teammates, he featured alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante, Frank Lampard, Kevin De Bruyne, Casemiro, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Vinicius Jr and Luka Modric, among many others.

He did also play against Ronaldo once for Belgium at Euro 2020, facing Lionel Messi on four occasions for Chelsea and the Red Devils. But the most talented player he shared a pitch with, was a rogue shout, and someone he did go up against.

“In Real Madrid, I played with the best players in the world,” Hazard told former teammate John Obi Mikel on the Obi One podcast.

“For me [Luka] Modric, [Karim] Benzema, they are top of the list. When you say Kevin De Bruyne, he’s top on the list, when you say [Frank] Lampard he’s top of the list, Juan Mata for me was top of the list.

“I’m gonna give you one name and John knows the player. The only one I was saying ‘wow’, you know, in France was Gael Kakuta.

“You asked me talent. Kakuta by far number one. Talent. I mean, talent. Wow.”

Kakuta and Hazard were actually at Chelsea at the same time, with three seasons overlapping, but during that time the DR Congo midfielder was on loan at Vitesse, Lazio and then Rayo Vallecano. Kakuta joined Chelsea in 2009 and his signing caused the club to be banned from transfers for two windows, accused of tapping him up when he was at Lens.

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Kakuta was also to be banned from playing for four months for breaching his contract, but both were overturned with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that the contract between Kakuta and Lens was not valid.

Across his six years at Chelsea, Kakuta played 16 times for the first team, also featuring for their youth squad. But it was at Lens that Hazard remembers Kakuta most fondly, facing off in youth football. They did also meet once in Ligue 1, but that was when Kakuta was on loan at Dijon from Chelsea.

“You know, I play I play against him a lot when because I used to play in Lille and he was playing in Lens. You know, it’s a derby, it’s the north of France,” Hazard recalled.

“So me being me. We used to win every game – five, six zero. Me – best player every game. And then every time we play against him, we’re losing the game. He’s the best player.

“This is not normal. I think now it is easy to say but I think he went a bit too early [to] Chelsea.

“He was 16 when he left France for Chelsea, you know? And that step at 16 is a huge step.”

Kakuta left Chelsea for Sevilla in 2015, and spent one year with the Spaniard club before starting something of a tour. He played for two years in China, returning to Spain and France on loan, then moving to Rayo Vallecano permanently. The past five years of his career have been split between Amiens and Lens, and Kakuta is currently at the former in Ligue 2.

The 32-year-old also switched international allegiance in 2017, representing DR Congo having come through the youth ranks in France. He’s made 24 appearances for DR Congo so far, with four coming at the recent Africa Cup of Nations.