Leicester City Football Club are champions of England. Yes. They have done the impossible. That, too. The odds were 5,000-to-1 against them. After battling relegation last year and finishing 14th, no sane person expected or had any reason to expect a turnaround like this. It's an incredible feat. Yes, yes, we know that and we'll deal with that later, but it's time to pay respects to one of the most pivotal characters in this story.
Eden Hazard is a hero and must be worshiped as such.
Riyad Mahrez should be stripped of the PFA Players' Player of the Year award, so that it could be awarded to Hazard. Not because Mahrez has not been excellent this year, he has, but because Hazard's role in Leicester's title win, and particularly the utter pettiness that came along with it, needs to be recognized.
He should be knighted, canonized, paraded and celebrated through the streets of London and Leicester. He needs his own theme music and a confetti budget, funded by all of the big clubs in England, so that he can be showered and adorned before every match from now on. Like the true icon that he is.
Hazard deserves all of this because he's so hateful that he had his best half-performance of the year in order to ruin Tottenham's season.
Apart from spite, Chelsea had nothing to play for. Hazard didn't either. The club's early struggles had doomed both player and team to missing European competition for the upcoming season. Unless Hazard decides to toy with the emotions of several fan bases again en-route to signing for a new team, that is. But, given his terrible form this year and the fact that his club are so far out of the race they can't even see the race, Hazard had no right to do what he did against Spurs.
He didn't cruise through what was a relatively insignificant game to him and Chelsea, despite only being introduced with Tottenham 2-0 up. No, instead, he came on at the half, burdened with the glorious purpose of breaking North London hearts.
Hazard stated explicitly beforehand that he wanted to stop Tottenham from winning the title: "We don't want -- the fans, the club, the players -- Tottenham to win the Premier League, but in football you never know," he said. He added that the hope was for Leicester to become champions and that if Chelsea could beat Tottenham in order to help, "it will be good."
His introduction into the game gave him the opportunity to turn that hatred into action.
Gary Cahill scored 13 minutes after Hazard came on to bring Chelsea back into the game. Though the North London side were still on top, the goal sent shivers down their spine. They had to win the game. A draw or loss would see Leicester City lift the Premier League crown. At 2-0 up, Spurs and their fans were brimming with confidence. The goal destabilized that, and brought the real possibility of failure to the forefronts of their minds. The tension grew and Spurs in turn, began to founder.
Hazard scored in the 83rd minute, and it was a thing of beauty. The goal needs to be lauded, not just for the fact of how heart-breaking and caustic it was but for its aesthetic brilliance, as well.
Oscar nicked the ball off Harry Kane, leaving John Obi Mikel to retrieve and pass to Hazard on the left wing. Hazard let the ball run across his body and waited. He waited and waited for Kyle Walker to get tight to him. Then as that happened, and with Erik Lamela closing in from the other side, he touched the ball twice: the first to wrong-foot both defenders and bring the ball to the center of his body. The second was to turn and go beyond them. The two defenders were already on yellows, rendering them unable to foul Hazard in order to stop him. Lest they risk being sent off.
It was delightful.
He was off, racing towards the Tottenham goal, but soon enough another defender, Eric Dier, would stand in his way. Dier was also on a yellow, so was hesitant to challenge Hazard. Walker also recovered to face him. Hazard, for the second time in a matter of seconds, found himself being double-teamed. No worries, not for the man of purpose. He nutmegged Walker with a pass to Diego Costa, and as the two defenders turned to the striker, Hazard sprinted ahead of them.
Costa, like Hazard with Walker, bided his time as Toby Alderweired desperately tried to get tight to him. He then turned the defender easily in the same fashion. As he looked up after, Hazard was rushing into the box on his left, goal-side of Moussa Dembélé. Costa makes the reverse pass, and in one touch, Hazard curled the ball around the keeper and into the top corner.
Hazard, knowing that we would be celebrating the pettiness of the goal along with the wonder of his technique, rushed off to celebrate in front of the Spurs fans. It's not enough to break your victims, the true man of hate must taunt them, as well.
That Eden Hazard had a strong half of football against Tottenham, a bona fide title challenger with the best defense in the league, is commendable. He had struggled all year and it was nice, at least from a neutral standpoint, to see him at the fullest of his powers again.
But the deliciously malicious timing of his resurgence is what truly deserves celebration.
Spurs had to win the match to stay alive. It was a must. They had scored two excellent goals on the back of that knowledge. In contrast, Chelsea had no real reason beyond their hatred for Tottenham to put effort towards the result. Hatred is a strong emotion, but you also need the ability to enact it. The rest of the Chelsea squad, at least for that first half, didn't look truly capable of doing so.
No one would have faulted Hazard for not changing the match, since he's been out of form for something approaching a year now. But knowing how critical this game was for Spurs, he came on hell-bent on making sure that the North London team finished their season empty-handed.
It's as if he had been holding on to that magical moment for the entire campaign, waiting for just the perfect moment where the effect of his resurrection would be most keenly felt. Football lovers all over the world were on the edge of their seats, hearts firmly in stomachs. Spurs fans were being tossed between fear and hope, dreams and nightmares, see-sawed between the prospect of winning the title after decades of being dismissed by bigger teams, and the ultimate validation of their struggle.
That's when Hazard decided to curl one into the top corner and end their season.
It's petty beyond measure. It's iconic even. A grand display of the playground bullying tactic: "If I can't have it, then you can't either."
For that, we can only salute Eden Hazard. A true hero of our time. A man who knows that the next best thing to winning something, is making sure that your rival doesn't win it.