It is Neymar, and not Hazard, who is closest to the current levels of Messi and Ronaldo, according to the latter’s former teammate Owen Hargreaves
The Brazilian was at his scintillating best, scoring a hat-trick as PSG swept past Red Star Belgrade 6-1 at home in their Champions League Group C encounter on Wednesday night.
This continued the French giants’ impressive comeback after their 3-2 loss to Liverpool on the opening night of this year’s premier European competition, as they have all four games since that night.
Neymar’s haul included two sumptuous free-kicks and was involved in almost all of the Ligue 1 champions’ good work as the hosts sent their guests on a leather hunt at Parc des Princes.
The midfielder became the world’s most expensive player when he moved from Barcelona to the French capital for £198million in 2017, in search of becoming one of the world’s foremost players, and challenging Messi and Ronaldo for individual honours, apart from helping fulfill the capital clubs desire to win a Champions League crown at long last.
Neymar, however, was not even in the top 10 for FIFA’s best player of 2018 award, not even tallying 1 per cent f the votes and Croatian Luka Modric won the award for his excellent season with both Real Madrid and Croatia, with Ronaldo finishing second and Messi fifth. The 26-year-old is also expected to miss out on this year’s Ballon d’Or award, to be given away later this year.
But Hazard is one of those players being talked of as closing in one Messi and Ronaldo, having started the season on fire for Chelsea, and the Belgian earned 5.65 per-cent of votes in FIFA’s Best awards, apart from perennially being linked with a major transfer to Real Madrid, just like Neymar.
While many feel the Chelsea talisman is up there with the multiple time world player of the year winners, former Manchester United and Bayern Munich midfielder Hargreaves feels Neymar is closer to the Argentine and Portuguese superstars than Hazard.
The BT Sport pundit adn former England international said on the Champions League highlights show, “He’s the only player I’d say that’s in that situation who could be close to Messi or Ronaldo.
“He put on a show that few players are capable of doing. Free-kicks, he made them look like simple passes. The first one was breathtaking.
“Linking up with (Kylian) Mbappe, getting in the box, he played in a different position today. He didn’t play wide left, he played No 10 and he was breathtaking.
“Three goals, two [roles in] assists and literally – he probably could have scored or created about 10 goals.
“He didn’t really show up at Liverpool, I don’t know why. Maybe he didn’t get a good night’s sleep!
“That’s the PSG [we know], when they’re great, they’re great. The PSG at Anfield disappointed quite a few people.”
Real Madrid were rumoured to be chasing both Hazard and Neymar to replace Ronaldo this summer.
Belgium captain Hazard recently hinted to BT Sport that he would still like to join the Spanish giants in the near future. “I will tell you the truth, after the World Cup I wanted to leave because my dream is to play in Spain,” he said.
“Then I spoke to the board and the manager and I said ‘I can stay no problem’.
“The new manager has come in and we are enjoying playing with him and I’m happy I stayed. I’ve got three years on my contract left.”
Asked if he could spend his whole career at Stamford Bridge, Hazard replied: “Yes for sure, but also the possibility is that I can leave also.
“I love the club, the fans, the city and my team-mates, I think, love me so it’s easy to stay. But if I leave or if I stay I will be happy. This club is now part of my life so we will see.”
Everyone is entitled to their is opinion, and while Hargreaves did make a few valid points, it is hard to argue against Hazard being near the levels of Messi and Ronaldo, and at least equal to Neymar on current form. Both are talismans for their clubs, both want to win everything there is (especially individual honours) and both are supremely talented. It is just a matter of being consistent throughout the season, and perhaps we can make a judgement come December or January.