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Euro 2012: Belgium fine Eden Hazard a bottle of champagne for lateness

May 29, 2012


• Vincent Kompany will choose the label, says coach Wilmots
• Chelsea’s prospective playmaker misses team bus to training

The previous night Eden Hazard had announced his £32m transfer from Lille to Chelsea, which made him comfo rtably the most expensive Belgian footballer of all time and smoothed his path to riches and global stardom. On Tuesday morning, though, the 21-year-old found it counted for nothing as he was late to leave his hotel room and saw that the Belgium team bus had departed for training without him.

Hazard must now find a window in his preparations for the Wembley friendly against England on Saturday to purchase the present his team-mates decided will be his forfeit. Appropriately for the midfielder, it is a bottle of champagne. “Vincent Kompany will choose the label,” the Belgium manager, Marc Wilmots, said. The suggestion was that the captain would select a very expensive one.

Hazard can afford it. His five-year contract at Stamford Bridge is worth £100,000 a week after tax and there is every chance that he will hand over the bubbly with a swagger. Hazard is a byword for self-confidence and he revels in being at the centre of attention, as English audiences are begin ning to find out.

It was typical of Hazard, said observers in Belgium, to build the suspense on Twitter regarding his transfer destination. After the lunchtime teaser he waited until Monday evening to tweet that he was bound for the European champions. His following on Twitter has rocketed.

Chelsea have not been impressed. They like to control such announcements via their official channels and it will be interesting to see whether Hazard says anything more in the coming days. If he is smart, he will not. It will also be interesting to see how the Stamford Bridge dressing-room welcomes a young player who is used to being treated as the star.

Wilmots, for whom England will be only his second game in charge of Belgium, seemed to be making a stand of sorts when he made public the story of the bus going without Hazard. Without his doing so, it might never have come to light. “Eden still arrived at the training session,” Wilmots said. “How he got there I don’t kn ow and I don’t care, but the important thing was that he was there.”

Hazard must have hitched a ride from someone at the hotel in Liege and he might have had time to dwell on the code of conduct that Wilmots wishes to implement. The rules are the rules, for everybody.

But Hazard is special and he knows it, having been told so for years. Zinedine Zidane predicted he will be a “major star in the future” and he would “take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed” while the tributes have poured in from domestic and international colleagues.

Joe Cole, who spent last season with him at Lille, said he could become “maybe one of the best in the world”; Moussa Dembélé of Fulham and Belgium put him in the class of “Silva, Modric and Mata”; and Wilmots called him “a phenomenon”.

Hazard likes to do his own thing but he is now swimming with the big fish and the pressure to prove himself is on. He intends his timing to be perfect at Wembley. Read More


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