On Sunday, Eden Hazard secured the first – and at the time of writing, only – perfect WhoScored.com rating of 10 at Euro 2016. The Chelsea man was in fine form in Belgium’s 4-0 win over Hungary as the Red Devils waltzed their way into the next round of the European Championship. One goal and one assist contributed to his top marks, though it’s the latter contribution that has Blues fans salivating at the prospect of Hazard’s compatriot arriving at Stamford Bridge.
The 25-year-old’s assist was for Michy Batshuayi’s first and Belgium’s second goal of the night. The Marseille star is in high demand this summer and his strike against Hungary, coming with his first touch off the bench, seemingly only added to the list of potential suitors on the continent. A host of European teams have shown an interest in the 22-year-old in recent months, but it seems as though Chelsea have won the race to sign the young forward.
The Belgian enjoyed a notable campaign for a disappointing Marseille side last season, with his 17 league goals bettered only by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (38), Alexandre Lacazette (21) and Edinson Cavani (19), despite L’OM finishing 13th in France’s top tier. His nine assists was also the fourth best return in Ligue 1 last season, with Batshuayi boasting the potential to establish himself as the all-round striker Chelsea require to fire them back to the top.
Able to play as either the lone frontman or in a strike partnership, the youngster’s ability to sufficiently adjust his style of play to suit the needs of the manager is ideal for incoming boss Antonio Conte. Much of the focus has been on whether the Italian will deploy a three-man defence, as he did for Juventus and does so for Italy, and it’s now a question whether Conte can be expected to do similar in the Premier League next season.
Of course, it’s difficult to gauge whether the 46-year-old can make his ideal system work in England. Louis van Gaal’s attempts to bring in a three-man defensive model ultimately backfired, while Conte’s stubbornness, should the system not work initially, could prove to be his undoing. Yet in attack, a strike duo of Hazard and Batshuayi is enough to fire Chelsea back up the Premier League table.
While Hazard is far from an out-and-out striker, his performances behind the striker in a Blues shirt last season suggests he’s more than capable of playing in the support role. Indeed, his displays in the tail end of the Premier League campaign and for Belgium at Euro 2016 suggests he is back to his best. An average of 5.5 successful dribbles per game at the European Championship is better than any other player, while 3.8 key passes per game also ranks highly.
His ability to drive through the opposition defence and create a goalscoring chance are two of Hazard’s endearing qualities. If Batshuayi can quickly adjust to the rigours of English football, the duo have the potential to form a lethal partnership. An increase in quality surrounding him will only benefit Batshuayi – who ranked third for shots on target (58) in Ligue 1 last season – and Chelsea.
While not a target man by trade, with Batshuayi preferring the ball played to his feet rather than in the air, Hazard and his Belgium teammate have the ability to strike up a quick understanding. If that is the case, Chelsea’s chances of making an immediate return to the Champions League will increase significantly.