In acquiring Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan Hazard on a season long loan from Chelsea, Borussia Monchengladbach have acquired a creative midfielder who shone in last years Belgian league and is determined to prove his worth to Chelsea.
During his time with Zulte Waregem, Hazard (21) was deployed largely in the number 10 role, playing behind a lone striker. He also demonstrated his ability to play anywhere across the centre of the park in a more withdrawn central midfield role. Hazard flourished in his native Belgium as part of a system that allowed him to play as the key playmaker.
If Hazard improves on his impressive 2013/14 season with Zulte then Gladbach could conceivably have made one of the shrewdest transfers in the Bundesliga this season. In 53 appearances, Hazard returned 17 goals and 20 assists in all competitions, which suggests that his undoubted raw talent is beginning to take shape. Gladbach will be hopeful that if Hazard can hit similar levels of performance this year then the clubs ambitions of European football and a domestic top four finish can be realized.
Despite being voted Zulte’s Player of the Season, Hazard only made the standby list for Belgium’s World Cup squad in Brazil. Whether national coach Marc Wilmot’s omission is based on his opinion of Hazard’s ability, that Belgium already has a wealth of young talented midfielders or the fact that he has yet to prove himself in one of Europe’s stronger leagues remains unclear (although in Hazard’s defence only 3 domestic players were called up to Belgium’s first team, one goalkeeper and two defenders). At a glance though, Hazard’s pace and skill seems a natural fit for Gladbach’s quick counter attacking team, and Hazard could well establish himself as a focal point for the team’s rapid transitions. If he can settle quickly there is no reason to doubt that Hazard will play an important role in the team, particularly if the club progresses into the Europa League proper.
Hazard admits that joining the Bundesliga is a step up in competition and could ultimately benefit him in fighting for a regular role at Chelsea next season. The Belgian Pro League is currently ranked 10th in the Uefa Coefficients in comparison to the Bundesliga being ranked 3rd. The standard of European opposition that Hazard has come across whilst a Zulte last season included the likes of Maribor, Rubin Kazan and Wigan (of the English Championship), hardly teams that compare with some of the Bundesliga’s stronger sides. However Hazard managed 2 goals in last years Europa League (in narrow wins away against Wigan and Maribor) that suggests that he can handle big game pressure and may be ready for the step up in competition. He may also suffer from unfair comparisons to his highly talented older brother Eden Hazard. Thorgan himself said:
“Eden is a world star, I do not have the same character, but step by step I’m trying to get to his level. My dad has talked to Jose Mourinho, I didn’t. He just advised that I choose a good team where I could play a lot. To compete in the Bundesliga I have to be a machine, then maybe I can go to England.
Hazard’s capture comes at a good time for Gladbach manager Lucien Favre and so far this summer Gladbach’s business has been largely positive. The loss of the highly rated young goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen to Barcelona was widely expected following his refusal to sign a new contract during the New Year. Gladbach also received a healthy €5.5 million for striker Luuk De Jong who had struggled to force his way into the first team last season. Despite this, Gladbach have so far been able to retain the core of last seasons team that finished a creditable 6th place in the Bundesliga. Unless Gladbach part with any of their current central midfielders in the next month, the signing of Hazard provides additional depth to the first team squad. The challenge for Hazard now is to force his way into a first team berth and make it his own. He has shown in Belgium that he has the raw talent and increasing maturity, and in Gladbach’s midfield he has a much bigger stage to showcase his ability.