Neymar and Eden Hazard

Two of the very best of their generation were expected to be next in line after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi wound down their careers. However, it is the youngsters who are chasing records quite like the GOATs.

Kylian Mbappe’s glorious hat trick away to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 was followed by another Erling Haaland finishing masterclass elsewhere in Spain as the Dortmund man put Sevilla to the sword 24 hours later. 

The manner of the breathtaking performances, and Haaland admitting he was inspired by Mbappe the previous night, reminisces the thrilling individual battles between Ronaldo and Messi on famous Champions League nights.

It is par for the course for football fans but does feel like a generation surpassed. What then, happened to Neymar and Eden Hazard, their anointed heirs?

Betway Nigeria

Eden Hazard

Hazard emerged at Lille as he won the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award in 2010, winning the league and cup double in 2011 before signing for Chelsea to mature into a world-class player.

He was widely considered one of the most talented players in world football who could have stepped up with single-mindedness and desire. With Loïc Rémy’s revelation that Hazard said he was “The Boss” at Chelsea after training poorly but still churning out match-winning performances, adding to former teammate Filipe Luis’ recent comments about Hazard’s talent.

Eden Hazard

“Eden, along with Neymar, are the best players I have ever played alongside – up there with Messi”, Luis told the Daily Mail.

“He didn’t train well, five minutes before the game he would be playing Mario Kart in the dressing room. He would warm-up without tying his boot laces up. Then no-one could take the ball off of him. He would dribble past three or four players and win games on his own.

“Hazard has so much talent. Perhaps he lacks a little bit of ambition to say: I am going to be the best player in the world. Because he could be.”

The 2018 World Cup Silver Ball winner prefers to create space and chances for his teammates with his incredible dribbling and stamina. 110 goals and 92 assists from 352 Chelsea games are outstanding, but it is widely believed he could have reached the level of the multiple Ballon d’Or winners.

Cesc Fàbregas, who also played with Messi and Neymar at Barcelona, also revealed in 2018 how close Hazard was to be among the very best in the world. “It is up to him. I always tell him, I have conversations with him over the last four years, it is all up to him. If he really wants it. He should, and he knows that.”

After eight trophies in seven years, Hazard duly followed in the footsteps of his idol in signing for Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid in a €100million transfer in 2019. However, his ‘dream’ move has been unfortunately hampered with injuries and fitness issues with eight injury setbacks in 18 months leaving him with four goals and seven assists in 35 games.

The 30-year-old has shown flashes of his world-class quality but the many absences have been poorly timed.


Hazard’s emergence in Europe draws parallels with Neymar who also emerged with Santos in Brazil as they won a historic Copa Libertadores in 2011. He was expected to take over the mantle from Messi when he joined Barcelona in 2013 and did enjoy a beautiful time forming the MSN front trio with Luis Suárez and Messi as they scored 365 goals between them in three seasons.

Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez

Neymar’s acrimonious 2017 departure was expected to push him firmly into the forefront of a super team he craved in PSG. The 29-year-old’s years in France have been fruitful with 83 goals and 47 assists in 103 games having won nine trophies.

However, save for last season’s post-pandemic run to the final, Brazil’s second-highest scorer has also struggled with fitness setbacks when it matters the most at the business end of the Champions League season.

While Neymar missed the first leg of their Barcelona tie and is unlikely to make the second leg due to injury. Hazard is set to miss Madrid’s first leg against Atalanta on Wednesday

It puts the current situation of the global superstars into perspective; whilst Ronaldo and Messi are enjoying their final few years together at the top of world football. Mbappe and Haaland are already providing vintage performances in the knockout phases.

The expected end of the Ronaldo-Messi era is in motion, however, it’s the newbies rather than the experienced heirs who are sticking themselves firmly in the debate for the game’s next Ballon d’Or favourites.

Apparently, Neymar and Hazard missed out on an era of undeniable success and immaculate consistency. Take nothing away from two of the best dribblers in the modern era, it just shows the exceeding standards the preceding GOATs have set.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog Meets Brand