Eden Hazard set for Etihad Stadium?
With the player himself having already made it clear he intends to move on at the end of this season, Lille are encouraging Eden Hazard to flourish in a bid to secure his dream transfer.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and assistant David Platt were both in the crowd on Sunday night as the defending French champions thumped Valenciennes 4-0 to strengthen their grip on third place in Ligue 1.
A week after Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson watched Hazard struggle to stand out in Lille’s 2-1 defeat at Lyon, the Belgian was in outstanding form in front of Mancini.
Hazard scored one goal and laid on two more as Lille secured a vital three points in their chase for Champions League qualification, and it is no wonder both Manchester’s biggest clubs are watching him.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are all also thought to be monitoring his situation carefully, and the 21 year-old will likely have his pick of club in the summer.
And, far from being afraid that Hazard might freeze with England’s biggest clubs watching his every move, Lille coach Rudi Garcia told his star player of Mancini’s presence in the hope that it might bring out the best in him.
“I knew Roberto Mancini was there, the coach told me,” Hazard told Canal Plus television immediately after the game.
“I didn’t really think about it, I just try to play to the best of my ability.”
Hazard is Lille’s leading scorer with 12 league goals and has also provided nine assists in Ligue 1, a tally bettered only by Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena and Paris Saint-Germain winger Jeremy Menez.
With the Belgian in such form, Lille can expect to end the season in the top three, although catching PSG and Montpellier above them may prove to be too much to ask.
“When I am out on the pitch, the pitch is the only thing that goes through my mind,” Hazard said. “I don’t think about who might be in the crowd. I have a season to finish here.
“As I have said before, I want to leave here having achieved something. I want to leave Lille having qualified for the Champions League before the club moves into its new stadium next season.”
Last year’s Ligue 1 player of the year, Hazard admits his coach Garcia has helped him take his game to another level this season.
“It was an area where I needed to progress,” he went on.
“The coach told me I needed to score and set up more goals. I did well last season (seven goals and 10 assists) but this year is even better.
“The coach tells me to watch the great players. (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo are always moving, always looking for the ball between the lines. That is how they get themselves into good shooting positions.
“I need to be more consistent in games. There are sometimes spells of five or 10 minutes where I make two or three silly errors. I need to play well over a whole 90 minutes.
With such desire to reach the very top, Hazard seems poised to become a big star outside of France in the very near future.