'That is shocking from any player' - John Aldridge on why Eden Hazard could be about to transform his reputation
John Aldridge believes Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard has given himself a chance to pave the way for a mega-money move to Real Madrid as he prepares to play in tonight's World Cup semi-final against France.
Hazard's inconsistencies have stopped him from joining the game's elite performers in recent years, but Aldridge suggests his sparkling performance as Belgium beat Brazil in a thrilling game last Friday was evidence of what he can produce when he is at his best.
"Hazard has all the talent to be one of the best players in the world, but there is a very clear reason why he has not been in that top group up to now," states Aldridge.
"He has pace, power, invention, a clever football brain and you can see defenders freaking out when he is running at them, but there is a very good reason why he is not considered to be in the same class as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and that actor who calls himself Neymar.
"The best players turn it on week after week, but Hazard has never done that and if he has at game at Crystal Palace on a wet Tuesday night or he's had a fall-out with whatever manager Chelsea have this week, Hazard goes out of his way to show he is not interested in playing.
"That is shocking from any player, but even more annoying when the guy doing it had the capacity to be one of the best footballers on the planet.
"Hazard has spoken about his dream of joining Real Madrid and what we saw from him on Friday night confirmed that the talent is in there if he had the desire to let it out every week.
"There are suggestions that Ronaldo will leave Real Madrid this summer and if that happens, they may well have looked at Hazard's display against Brazil and think he could be the man for them.
"He has yet to prove he has the focus required to play for a massive club like Real Madrid is a different issue, but in terms of his raw attributes, Hazard is one of the top players in our game."
Aldridge was also impressed by the performance of Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku against Brazil, as he suggested the Manchester United star displayed all his best qualities in a powerful display that paved the way for a famous victory.
"Lukaku terrorised the Brazil defence with a powerful and dynamic performance that highlighted what he brings to the table," stated Aldo.
"He has every attribute to be the most fearsome centre-forward in world football, but how often do we see him getting pushed off the ball by smaller defenders and not looking willing to chase after balls when the tide is going against him.
"This guy should be powering past people and scoring 35 goals every season because he has huge physical advantages over his rivals and what we saw from him against Brazil is a sign of what he can do."
Aldridge believes France and Belgium are in pole position to win this World Cup, as he predicted the winner of the first semi-final in St Petersburg will be crowned as world champions on Sunday.
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"The winner of Belgium v France will be the firm favourites to win a World Cup that has made for compelling viewing from first to last," he added.
"Both of these two teams will go for the win and we should see goals, top quality football and two sets of world class players squaring off in a game that has the potential to be the best match of a competition loaded with memorable matches."
Read John Aldridge every week in the Sunday World.