Jose Mourinho said the other day that he thinks Hazard was better than Ronaldo as far as last season was concerned. Mourinho even compared Messi, Ronaldo and Hazard. Credit to him, he said what was probably true as far as last season was concerned, that Messi was by far the best player last season.
While one cannot argue with Mourinho on who was the best player in the world last season (no prize for guessing it was Lionel Messi), but one can argue about whether Hazard was better than Ronaldo or if Hazard IS better than Ronaldo. It is true that Hazard can do things not many players can do such as the thing he does with Barcelona in the video below,
but when it comes to comparing someone with the likes of Messi or even Ronaldo, I think one has to be really careful in voicing unfounded opinion. Whether you hate Ronaldo or Messi, it is rather irrelevant, the fact is players like Messi, Ronaldo, old Ronaldo, Ronaldinho etc etc come once in a generation of players. If we keep on comparing every hot talent with these legends then we’re actually doing a disservice to football.
Hazard was superb last season and it is also a fact that only Messi made more successful dribbles than him with Ronaldo in the distant 20th position, but statistics don’t tell the whole story when it comes to judging the best player in the world.
Here is why I think Hazard has some way to go in catching the likes of Ronaldo and Messi:
- Messi and Ronaldo have pushed the boundaries of what is and was possible for athletes in football. They dribble a lot. They score a lot. They assist a lot. They score goals from every angle, every position and every situation. Hazard is yet to do that. His goal scoring ability is nowhere near to that of Ronaldo (lets leave Messi aside for a bit). Ronaldo scored about 70 goals last season while Hazard scored a mere 19. Hazard will get better. Ronaldo didn’t score this many goals in his early career at Manchester United but he stuck at it, worked hard and look at where is he now. Hazard for all his dribbling talents needs to develop that killer shot. He cannot just run past players on the wings and then put in a cross or a square pass for someone else to score. In order to join the ranks of legends, he needs to move up from being a mere assist guy. The best part is that Hazard has the skill for it and it is only a matter of time because he accepts that he needs to do more with the ball than his teammates because he has more command over it.
- Hazard does not have the pace of Ronaldo. Ronaldo can run and run past. He is on the wrong side of 30 now and still very few defenders can catch him when he is in full flight. Hazard does not have that kind of speed. He is quick to move side to side and cuts very well inside the defenders. He is more like a Messi when it comes to dribbling than a Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a powerhouse and knows how to make use of his unique gifts which leads us to the next point.
- Hazard is more or less one dimensional because of his physical attributes. Because of the fact that Hazard can move so well and can change direction so quickly, it makes him a one dimensional player and sooner or later defenders will figure that out down to an inch. Ronaldo, on the other hand, can take free kicks (though has been rubbish at them for the past year and a half) and is probably the best header of the ball in the world when his feet are not doing the job for him. Hazard can take unstoppable penalties but they don’t come as regularly as free kicks or headers. Hazard needs to develop more weapons.
- That is another limitation that Hazard has even when it comes to dribbling. Ronaldo has so much more ways to dribble past players that it is also unbelievable . Hazard dodges players basically the same way over and over again and gets away with it because he is very quick and very new to the world stage of football. You could argue that Messi also dribbles the same way more or less but that is actually not the case. Messi is also significantly faster than both Ronaldo and Hazard when it comes to shifting direction quickly. Messi is also left foot and that always is a big advantage in leagues where more players than ever are right footed. Messi can also shoot, pass, chip and dribble. Hazard cannot do all those things just yet. He may be able to work on his shooting and passing as he develops but right now, Hazard is limited by the number of things he can do on the pitch and that was quite evident when he played against PSG in Champions League. Good sides always work on individual players unlike the sides Messi, Ronaldo and Hazard face in the league.
The Future for Hazard
I don’t think there is any question that if Hazard continues to work hard and stays motivated (out of bad company too if its possible) he can reach the heights Ronaldo and Messi have reached but we have to be honest about what Messi and Ronaldo have achieved in football.
Messi and Ronaldo have taken football to another level and Hazard is a long away from being that kind of a player. If Hazard can stay fit and injury free (since Mourinho complained about players deliberately trying to injure Hazard last season on many occasions) he can become one of the greats. Better than Ronaldo? I highly doubt it.
What do you think? Can Hazard reach the levels of Messi and Ronaldo given that at 24, his best goal tally is 19 whereas Messi and Ronaldo already had started scoring for fun when they were at the same age as Hazard is now. Let me know your thoughts on that.