THE BLOG
21/10/2015 18:09 BST | Updated 21/10/2016 06:12 BST

Eden Hazard's Slump Proof That Messi and Ronaldo Comparisons Were Premature

There's not one player in this footballing generation that is going to even come close to what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to achieve.

The two players head the 23-strong list of names on the shortlist for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or, published on Tuesday. While the Portuguese captain is the current holder of the prize, there's a reason why Barcelona's main man is the odds-on favourite to win his record-extending fifth Golden Ball on January 11.

Each consistently boast a goals-to-game ratio most modern forwards can only dream of; and individually, both are among the greatest footballers of all time. Yeah, even that Ronaldo - Real Madrid's new all-time record scorer. Selfish primadonna, or not.

The difference between the two this year, though, is Messi's trophy cabinet. He led Barcelona to a treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey titles, while his great rival ended up empty-handed. But regardless of which of the two win the award at the start of next year, as it stands, they're still untouchable. Miles apart from the rest.

That's not to say that there aren't other world-class players making their mark on the European and international game at the moment. Robert Lewandowski's current form - he's hit 15 goals in his last seven appearances for club and country prior to Tuesday's match with Arsenal - puts him right in contention, while Neymar, Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero are among the other leading names in the game.

But one stand-out performer of last season was Eden Hazard. Voted the PFA Player of the Year after a brilliant campaign for Chelsea, Hazard was dubbed the new heir to the throne - just a step away from being the next coming of Ronaldo or Messi, by various journalists - and his manager even hinted at superiority to Ronaldo (in a sense)

The fact of the matter is, though, that such comparisons shouldn't have ever been drawn between the players in the first place. Hazard, though fantastic on occasion, hasn't ever replicated the metronomic goal-return of either man, and back in September he admitted that he doesn't think he has it in him either.

Speaking in an interview with Sport/Foot Magazine in Belgium, he remarked: "I ask myself what I can do to become like Messi and Ronaldo, and score 50 or 60 goals in a season.

"I try but I realise that I will never be a true scorer. It is not in me. It is mainly mental. Sometimes I still think after a goal, 'that's enough'."

And while scoring hatfuls of goals may not be the be-all-and-end-all of a great footballer, attackers make up for that in other areas; whether they be the genius behind the goals or the uplifting presence that grabs a game by the scruff of the neck. Hazard is rarely any of those, and he's far too non-committal in a defensive sense to justify being on the pitch when not on form.

That's what Jose Mourinho has acted on of late. Hazard was dropped from the team for the weekend win over Aston Villa as they couldn't afford to carry the off-colour luxury that is their 24-year-old number 10. It worked, as Chelsea held on to what has become a rare clean sheet and a 2-0 victory. It'll be the first of a series to come of narrow, ground out victories, you'd think.

It's easy to say it at a time like this, but when Real Madrid or Barcelona find themselves dipping in form, Ronaldo and Messi aren't the ones sacrificed. They may be luxury players who aren't responsible for covering the gaps behind them - as Hazard seems to think he is - but the difference is, they rarely ever fail to deliver.

Their average standards of performance far exceed that of Hazard in his pomp and there was a particular statistic last season which showed Hazard's best campaign in Blue could barely compare to what was deemed a "bad" season for another Los Blancos attacker.

Gareth Bale played 53 games in 2014/15 - scoring 21 goals - while Hazard's return of 20 in 56 sat slightly inferior. And Gareth Bale is a player who, according to a certain Spanish journalist, is not even as good as a mere quarter of Cristiano Ronaldo himself.

Nevertheless, the notion persists that the out-of-form Hazard could be the man to replace Ronaldo in Spain come the end of the season. Read into the player's social media activity, his performances on the pitch and his relationship with his manager and take from it what you will, but the fact remains.

Eden Hazard has some serious improving to do - with both his performances and his attitude - even if he's to enter the conversation as one of the world's best players, and he's going to need to step things up if he's actually to be deemed worthy of stepping in to the shoes of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Spanish capital.

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