Eden Hazard, Wesley Sneijder, Alan Shearer, Dimitar Berabtov, Ronaldinho, Celio Silva… Celio Silva. Another summer, another tiresome transfer ‘saga’ in the offing as Belgian midfielder-cum-winger Hazard cock-teases his way around Europe’s major clubs, before inevitably joining “the project” over at Manchester City. It’s all about the trophies you see. And the filthy lucre.
The drawn-out transfer, negotiated in time-honoured fashion via Sky Sports News, is almost certain to conclude around midnight, 31 August, as Jim White chases the youngster through Heathrow for a final conclusive answer. And the last few headlines of the summer. By which time those viewers who have not already cranked up the oven, primed for head insertion, will surely do so. Even if its electric, rather than gas.
After all, the close-season is barely two days old, but has rapidly descended into the desperate summer search for column-filling news, football in absentia. The summer’s other entertainment – John Terry drunkenly harassing an under-age Ukrainian barmaid just hours before England’s Euro 2012 opener against France – can wait, for now.
In the meantime, Hazard is likely to command many of those headlines, having spent the season enjoying the considerable attention his irregular proclamations of love and loyalty have brought. After all he loves La Liga, and Italy, and England, and Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur, and Real Madrid, and Barcelona, and the colour blue. Everybody say, ‘eh oh’.
Remarkably, the Belgian cranked up the gossip juice even further this past weekend – the 21-year-old’s agent had seemingly let it be known that his charge would announce next season’s destination after Lille’s fixture with AS Nancy on Sunday evening. The world watched and waited, first as Hazard signed off his five-year spell at Lille with a hat-trick in the home side’s 4-1 demolition of mid-table Nancy, then as the player departed on a 15 minute lap-of-honour with toddler in tow, then as Hazard announced he would be joining….
…. nobody. Not yet, at least. World -class trolling, Eden, world-class.
“As long as I’ve not put pen to paper, I won’t say where I’m going,” the Belgian international told Canal+.
“I have not yet made my choice. Chelsea could interest me now. They’ve won the Champions League and will therefore be in it next season. It’s really important for me to be playing in that competition. Chelsea are a big club with some great players – of course it’s a possibility.
“For now, nothing’s been decided, but it will be soon I hope that by June 2 it will be clear. Now I want to join up with the national team and then go on holiday. It’ll do me a lot of good. My agent has met with Manchester and with Chelsea. They both give good offers and are both great clubs. I don’t know. It’s not been finalised yet.”
Quite which club ‘Manchester’ is wasn’t clarified.
But if Hazard took the wind-up to a new level, fans and the mainstream media have joined the fun. First, Sky Sports News reported on Monday morning that it “understands Hazard would prefer to join United” this summer. Cynics might add that the channel normally “understands” whatever is in the morning’s newspapers, gossip sites, Twitter, or is fed by agents. Or generates the most headlines, clicks and viewers. Rant couldn’t possibly comment.
Then a very well done fake ‘official’ United site fooled countless supporters on social media, before ESPN tweeted the ‘news’ as fact if only to prove the unnervingly low standards of reporting, or accountability, in rolling media.
Meanwhile, Hazard is lapping up the attention – a young man who has the world at his feet, and seemingly knows it. The 26-cap Belgian international has spent much of the past season proclaiming his love for every club, or country, in which he could potentially play next season. Talent and conceit in equal measure, some might say.
That, of course, is to say nothing of the player’s representative, firsteleven ISM, which is reportedly seeking €8 million simply to do the deal with interested parties this summer. Add Lille’s €35 million transfer fee, and wages upwards of £150,000 per week, and any deal for Hazard will necessarily be complex. It’s a fact supporters may wish to take into consideration when assessing any future headlines!
On the field Hazard’s season ended with a first League 1 hat-trick of a fledgling career, taking the youngster to 20 goals for the season. Lille missed out on Le Championnat crown though, finising third behind PSG and champions Montpellier. The player is more Cristano Ronaldo than Paul Scholes, but it is easy to envisage the player in Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactical thinking next season, with the United manager apprently after pace in midfield.
It is, of course, not quite so easy to believe that the Glazer family is genuinely prepared to invest upwards of £80 million on a single player over the length of a five-year contract.
Yet, United is apparently still an option if the mainstream media is to be believed, with Lille managing director Frederic Paquet revealing that four clubs are in the running for the player’s signature – Chelsea, City, United and, presumably, Real Madrid.
“I’m not sure he himself knows exactly where he will go, so for the moment we don’t know,” Parquet told Sky Sports News.
“From what I know I think there are maybe four teams interested in him. At this moment we don’t know. We have a very strong relationship with the player and his advisors, so we will get together and for the moment we are just waiting for him to make a choice between these four teams.”
In the meantime the headline-makers will keep on chasing viewers: proclamations of Hazard’s impending departure to City, Chelsea, Madrid and United will likely abound. Perhaps best, then, to take it all in with good humour. Especially if the player himself has anything to say.