Eden Hazard, one of his generation's most talented and creative players, has announced his retirement from professional football at 32. The Belgian winger, who played for Lille, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and his national team, has decided to hang up his boots after a stellar career that spanned 16 years and saw him win numerous trophies and accolades.
Hazard was born on 7 January 1991 in La Louvière, Belgium, to a footballing family. His parents, Thierry and Carine, were both former players, and his three younger brothers, Thorgan, Kylian, and Ethan, also followed in their footsteps. Hazard started playing football at four at Royal Stade Brainois, before joining AFC Tubize at eight. He was spotted by a scout from Lille, who invited him to join their academy in France in 2005.
In November of 2007, at the tender age of 16 years and 148 days, Hazard made his professional debut for Lille's first team, becoming the youngest player in Ligue 1 ever. Soon after joining the team, he became a mainstay in the starting lineup and a major contributor as they won both the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France titles in the 2010–11 season.
After winning the UNFP Young Player of the Year title three years in a row from 2008-09 to 2010-11, he was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year twice (in 2010-11 and 2011-12).
Hazard turned down offers from teams like Manchester United and Manchester City before announcing in June 2012 that he would be joining Chelsea in the Premier League. The London club reportedly paid £32 million to secure his services for the next five years. In his first game for Chelsea, a 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic, he contributed with both a goal and an assist in his debut performance.
Together with Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas, Hazard became an essential part of Chelsea's offense. In his first season with Chelsea, he scored the game-winning goal against Benfica to help the club win the UEFA Europa League.
In addition to the FA Cup in 2017-18 and the League Cup in 2014-15, he also won the Premier League in 2014-15 and 2016-17. In 2014–15, he was honored as the Premier League's best player and also won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards.
In 352 games for Chelsea, Hazard amassed 110 goals and 92 assists, making him one of the club's all-time leaders in both categories. His single effort against Arsenal in 2017 was one of the club's most memorable moments, while his hat trick against Cardiff City in 2018 and his brace against West Ham United this year are also among his most notable goals.
In Chelsea's 4-1 win over Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League final in May 2019, he scored twice and assisted on a third goal.
Hazard signed a five-year contract with the Spanish giants in June 2019 for a cost that could grow to £130 million. He now wears the famous number 7 jersey that has been worn by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ral. In September 2019, he made his Real Madrid debut after coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 victory over Levante.
However, his time at Real Madrid was marred by injuries and poor form. He suffered several muscle strains, ankle fractures, and COVID-19 infections that limited his availability and performance. He only scored four goals and provided seven assists in 43 appearances for Real Madrid over two seasons. He did manage to win one trophy with Real Madrid, the La Liga title in 2019–20.
In May of 2021, he played his farewell game for Real Madrid against Chelsea in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final. He could not save Real Madrid from a 2-0 loss and elimination from the tournament.
After the game, he was spotted laughing with several of his former teammates, which also sparked some backlash.
Hazard earned his Belgium debut in November 2008, at the age of 17 years and 316 days, making him the eighth-youngest player in the history of the national team. Later in life, he captained Belgium and set a record for most international appearances with 112.
The star led Belgium to their best-ever finishes at the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship, reaching the quarter-finals in 2014 and 2016, and the semi-finals in 2018 and 2020. He was named to the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2018 and also won the Silver Ball as the second-best player of the tournament.
In October of 2021, after Belgium was eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the Qatar qualification round, Hazard announced his retirement from international play. He and his wife, Natacha Van Honacker, had four children, therefore he claimed he needed to prioritize them and his club career.
After missing much of the 2022-23 season with an ankle injury, Hazard also announced his retirement from club football in August 2023. He expressed gratitude for what football had taught him and that he had no regrets regarding his professional life.
Hazard was one of the most talented and exciting players of his time, impressing with his pace, dribbling, vision, and flair. He was also selfless and adaptable, able to play in a number of different roles and places while still helping his team score goals. His teammates and coaches had nothing but admiration for his skill, diligence, and charisma.
In addition, he has broken several records and won a total of 16 trophies throughout his career, including six league titles, three domestic cups, two continental cups, two Player of the Year awards, and two Golden Boots. He is also the first player to win the UNFP Young Player of the Year award three times, the first to score a hat trick in a UEFA Europa League final, and the most capped player for Belgium.
Hazard inspired a generation of young players, especially in Belgium, where he was regarded as a national hero and a role model. He also contributed to various charitable causes, such as supporting children’s education, health, and welfare. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2019.
The former football player will be sorely missed by the football world, but his legacy and impact will live on forever.