The recent Premier League departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale calls into question the claim that the ‘best league in the world’ is to be found on these shores.
Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2009 for an £80m fee, and was soon joined by Gareth Bale when the Spanish giants returned to secure a world-record transfer offer of £86m to take the Welshman to the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, the emergence of Manchester City as a financial powerhouse has lifted the standard with the additions of stars such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure, while there is no doubting that Luis Suarez stands as one of the most talented strikers in the game.
But it’s Chelsea who can claim to potentially have the most exciting player currently plying his trade in the Premier League in Eden Hazard, as the Evening Standard found out.
The Belgium international was pursued by a host of Europe’s leading clubs in 2012 before confirming on Twitter he was joining the then ‘European champions’ from Lille for £32m.
He is less than two seasons into a five-year contract and already looks a bargain. In his first season he grew stronger as the campaign progressed and helped Chelsea win the Europa League.
Under Jose Mourinho, he is taking his game to a higher plain and even opposition managers have expressed their appreciation of his talents.
Chelsea’s top scorer on 11 goals, his performances are attracting covetous glances from abroad with Paris Saint- Germain and Real Madrid known admirers.
Hazard continues to express his happiness at Stamford Bridge but due to Ronaldo and Bale’s highly publicised departures from these shores, it means there will always be concern in the back of some Chelsea fans’ minds over whether the club will keep such a talent.
Mourinho knows all about the allure of wanting to test one’s ability abroad. After all, his ambition led him to manage Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid after guiding Porto to the European Cup in 2004.
During that time he has worked with some of the world’s best players and is in no doubt that Hazard will become one of them. But, crucially, he feels the Premier League is the best venue for him to achieve it.
In the second part of his exclusive interview with the Evening Standard, Mourinho said: “This is the opinion of somebody who has been here in this country and worked elsewhere. For me the situation is clear — the best place to develop is in the most difficult League.
“After that the best place to show how good you are is in the easiest League, not in the most difficult.
“In England, you don’t do 100 points, you don’t score 125 goals unless Manchester City can do it this season. But normally the evolution of a player needs difficulty and the difficulties help the development of a player. You reach your maximum with difficult situations. The big push comes.
“After that you have choices, stay in the most beautiful League to play or go where it is easier to succeed.
“Of course it is easier to succeed abroad. You go to Spain and there are two big clubs [Barcelona and Real Madrid]; you go to Germany and they have one big club [Bayern Munich] and a little bit more. In Italy now there is one big team [Juventus are eight points clear in Serie A], although obviously more than one big club. So it is easier to succeed.
“If you are an attacking player and go to Barcelona or Real Madrid, it is easier to score 50 goals than if you’re playing in England.
“Of course these clubs are a big attraction. You can’t blame a player. As a manager I had that instinct, too. I wanted to go to Madrid myself.
“So if a player has that feeling it’s very understandable. But I keep thinking in my case, where I enjoyed most is where the competition is. It’s high here. If I was a player I wouldn’t leave the Premier League.”
Chelsea - January transfer targets
Chelsea - January transfer targets
1/18 Luke Shaw - Another potential long term successor to Ashley Cole, the Southampton youngster has impressed everyone and would surely command a fairly hefty fee given his side's recent success.
2/18 Sami Khedira - Currently out with a long term injury so a January signing looks unlikely but Jose Mourinho is said to be keen to link up with his former charge and the German is just the sort of player Chelsea need in midfield.
3/18 Fredy Guarin - At one point very close to signing with the club, the £15m Colombian, cooled for a while. However, with the move to Juventus, stalling - Chelsea may with the use the funds from Mata's transfer to Man Utd and make another bid.
4/18 Andrea Ranocchia - Chelsea are one of a few Premier League clubs chasing the Inter defender and you can see why, the tall centre-back is a handy player.
5/18 Claudio Marchisio - Juventus' early Champions League exit may leave them a little strapped for cash with Marchisio being mooted as a player to be sold in order to cover the shortfall. Chelsea would no doubt be interested in his midfield class should he become available.
6/18 Eliaquim Mangala - Another defender Mourinho is reportedly very keen on, the Porto centre-back would not come cheap although his club have admitted they would be willing to sell him for the right price. Manchester City have since shown an interest however.
7/18 Luis Suarez - Chelsea need a goal-scoring striker, so who better than the league's top scorer? A very unlikely move for a lot of obvious reasons.
8/18 Diego Costa - The Atletico Madrid man is another striker in red hot form and consequently he has attracted the attention of several Premier League clubs. Mourinho would no doubt enjoy swiping him from under Arsene Wenger's nose.
9/18 Xabi Alonso - Another of Mourinho's former players who would add experience and quality to Chelsea's midfield. Given his age shouldn't prove too expensive.
10/18 Radamel Falcao - Linked with Chelsea for some time, the free-scoring Colombian would cost a fortune to prize away from mega-wealthy Monaco, but the promise of Champions League football would surely be enticing.
11/18 Edinson Cavani - Another big name striker who would cost a lot to sign, this time from PSG, Cavani has again consistently been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge.
12/18 Hulk - Apparently fairly disenchanted at Zenit and another long time Chelsea target, nevertheless would seem an odd purchase given his usual berth is out wide - a position Chelsea have a ludicrous amount of depth in.
13/18 Jackson Martinez - Another Colombian reportedly on Chelsea's radar, the Porto forward has an excellent recent goal record but might represent more of a risk given he would still command a large transfer fee. With Juan Mata now in Chelsea's past, a new midfielder is needed.
14/18 Gonzalo Higuain - Seems unlikely given he only moved to Napoli in the summer, but Italian media are reporting that Chelsea are interested in the Argentine forward. Another of Mourinho's former men.
15/18 Wayne Rooney - Chelsea's main target over the summer and despite apparently being happier at Old Trafford has yet to sign a new contract. Failure to qualify for the Champions League would surely see Rooney depart. Will selling Mata to the champions make them loosen their tough stance on the England man?
16/18 Fabio Coentrao - With questions over Ashley Cole's place in the side, Chelsea are reportedly having a look at another Mourinho old boy, Real Madrid's Coentrao.
17/18 Mario Balotelli - Is a Premier League reunion with Super Mario back on the cards? That's what sections of the Italian press think. It seems unlikely given his previously very poor working relationship with Mourinho but you just never know.
18/18 Alberto Moreno - The young left back is another being touted as Ashley Cole's successor - with a buy out clause of £25m he wouldn't be cheap but then aged 21 he has a long future ahead of him.
One suspects Mourinho’s presence at Stamford Bridge will play a major part in ensuring just that because Hazard (right) is starting to revel under the 50-year-old’s guidance.
In the first few months of the campaign, the Belgian appeared to take time to adjust to his methods and tactical demands.
But in recent weeks the 23-year-old has been Chelsea’s stand-out performer, noticeably becoming a more complete player who is willing to track back as well as take on opposition defenders.
Such progress leaves Mourinho in no doubt what Hazard can achieve and he added: “Eden can become one of the best players in the world. Now he sees his football and profession with different eyes.
“He understood how there is a gap between the talent and the performance and a gap between the occasional performance and the permanent stability at a high level. He now understands how he can fill this gap.
“He trains much better, he concentrates much better. Tactically, he has had a big evolution. He understands how to put his qualities on the surface of the team. He understands the best way to hide his weaknesses.
“He is 23 and now in his second season in England after an experience in France. He is playing in a Chelsea side trying to win the Premier League, also the Champions League, and is going to the World Cup with Belgium. He has in his hands all the tools to fill these gaps.
“Everyone knows he is a talented player, that he was that when he arrived here. But now he is trying to go to a different level, we are helping him and he is doing it step by step. Hopefully, the big talent can transform himself into the big player.”
Chelsea fans are hoping that the Premier League will get to witness it.
Jose Mourinho is supporting Chelsea Soccer Schools which provide opportunities for players of all abilities in the South-East. The courses are available for both boys and girls and promote the Chelsea Foundation’s values of fair play and respect in a fun and enjoyable enviroment.www.chelseafc.com/soccerschoolsReuse content