Hazard not living up to past heights

PARIS • The implication from Guus Hiddink was that, if and when the time comes for Eden Hazard to leave Chelsea, he could do better than Paris Saint-Germain.

"Big, big, big players," the Dutch manager said, would always gravitate towards England, Germany and Spain rather than France.

To which the obvious questions are: What constitutes a big, big, big player and does Hazard measure up to that standard?

There was certainly no shortage of big players on the PSG team sheet on Tuesday: Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, Angel di Maria, Lucas Moura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

It is not quite la creme de la creme but it is a roll-call that would be the envy of any English Premier League club.

Hazard? On last season's excellent form, he would fit quite well with that elevated company. On this season's miserable performances, which continued on Tuesday, the Belgian midfielder would not come close to that standard.

There were a few moments in the first half against PSG when he looked a little more like his old self but for the most part, he still looked troubled by the malaise that has continued to afflict him after Jose Mourinho's departure in December.

He worked hard enough and tried to sprinkle a little magic, as half-time approached, but as the game went on, he showed an alarming tendency to lose possession in dangerous areas.

What was Hazard thinking when he trudged towards the bench with 19 minutes remaining, looking tired and more than a little frustrated by his night's work?

Certainly he will have been hoping his team-mates could hold on for a 1-1 draw - which, as it transpired, they could not - but it might also have crossed his mind that the joie de vivre that is missing from his game right now seems to come so much more easily to PSG's players.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG's Qatari owner, is promising to sign a "super-crack" this summer, and the hot rumour in Paris is that he will stop at nothing to entice Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.

The big players do not go to France? Yes they do, Hiddink, at least when it comes to PSG, whose allure is growing.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Hazard not living up to past heights'. Print Edition | Subscribe