It is not that much of a surprise to see the Belgian linked with a transfer back from Real Madrid after departing in 2019.
Anytime Hazard’s name reemerges, Chelsea social media is sent into a frenzy of debate. Would a return be good? Would it be bad? Does it make any sense?
Whatever the accuracy of these recent links is, that’s not the point.
The concept of a Hazard return, and the clamour of those for it to become a reality, is probably the cherry on top of an over £300m recruitment drive that has completely failed.
Replacing the inspiration of Hazard was never going to be easy for Chelsea.
The reliance on his shoulders was most demonstrated by the Blues attacking numbers in his final season.
Via Opta and Squawka, a graph that listed the Premier League stat leaders for the top six sides over the 2018/19 season. It had Hazard leading in five.
Most assists, most take ons, most fouls won, most chances created, and most duels won.
His final act most emphasised that undeniable influence in a Chelsea shirt. He dominated the Europa League final victory over Arsenal in Baku, scoring two and making one of Chelsea’s four goals on the evening.
It was the finest full stop on a glorious eight-year stint in west London where Hazard became one of the most talented players Chelsea supporters had ever witnessed.
The affection for Hazard is undying. His best moments are regularly reshared and replayed.
The solo run against Arsenal in 2017, the stunning left-foot curler against Spurs in 2016, the barnstorming display at the Stadium of Light in 2013, that one against West Ham, that one against United and Newcastle and Liverpool.
The list goes on and on. Watching Hazard play was like watching Roger Federer stroking a backhand at Wimbledon. He made the sport look effortless and enjoyable.
His relaxed demeanour felt refreshing in a game that was becoming extremely serious—obsessed with stats and a creeping feeling of cynicism.
Stories of Hazard munching on burgers after games or playing Mario Kart minutes before kick-off made this worldly talent feel relatable.
I miss watching Hazard play football. I miss the effortless running, the feeling of anticipation whenever the ball landed at his feet on the left-wing.
The feeling of unrivalled expression and unpredictability that much of the current Chelsea attack lacks.
But Hazard is now 31 and has suffered from a series of injuries since achieving his career dream of signing for Real Madrid.
Only one goal from 22 appearances from Madrid tells enough of the drop with under 1000 minutes played for Carlo Ancelotti.
Madrid, who currently sit top of La Liga by six points, are looking beyond their glamorous 2019 singing for inspiration.
21-year-old Vinicius Junior is the exciting prospect for Los Blancos, 16 goals already this term from the left-wing and will be one of the names Madrid will look to next month to overturn a first-leg deficit to PSG in the Champions League.
Hazard likely will remain on the bench, hoping for a brief cameo if required.
Chelsea supporters maybe look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United and feel something similar could be festered. Not factoring in Hazard’s frailties and the problems Ronaldo’s lack of pressing has brought to United’s attack.
Buying back Hazard would be an admission that the over £300m spent since 2019 has effectively been wasted.
It is a dangerous type of nostalgia that keeps ideas of brave progression reserved and short-term reactive decision-making at the forefront.
There is a great irony in the case of sentiment towards Hazard. We mustn’t let it go unnoticed that when club icon Frank Lampard was sacked in 2021, arguments were presented that a ruthless club like Chelsea had no room for sentiment.
Acts of kindness, leaning too much into nostalgia and familiarity. There was no room for Frank but apparently so for Eden?
And what happens when he’s not the Hazard we remember? Who to blame? The player whose career clearly hit its peak three years ago, or the decision-makers at Chelsea who could invest wisely on younger talent?
The most consistent joy post-Hazard has come from the fresh faces coming out of the club’s academy. Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Billy Gilmour, Trevoh Chalobah.
Although all are not still at the club, they quickly provided fans with a new form of expression to cling to. The type that can be built upon for the long-term, rather than fade quickly.
Hazard will always be remembered more especially with the incident at Baku, coming back to the club will be to retire and become a club legend.