CHELSEA midfielder Eden Hazard was the toast of the English game last night as he carried off the PFA Player of the Year award.
The 24-year-old Belgian has scored 18 goals across all competitions for his club this season, helping the Blues win the Capital One Cup and putting them on the brink of a first Premier League title since 2010.
He was rewarded for his sterling performances with the top individual award of the night at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.
Victory in their next two games – at Leicester City on Wednesday evening and at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon – would wrap up the championship for Chelsea.
Hazard said of his award success: “I’m very happy. One day I want to be the best and what I did this season is play very well, Chelsea played very well.
“I don’t know if I deserve to win but it is good for me.
“It is good, it is better to be voted by the players – they know everything about football. This is good. I’m very happy.”
He took the Young Player of the Year prize 12 months ago, and has rapidly progressed to the top award.
“We are almost champions, maybe this is the key,” said Hazard, who featured in yesterday’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal that all but ended the Gunners’ faint hopes of league success. “Last season we finished third and this season we have an opportunity to win the league. This has changed from last season.
“I continue like I did last season – I try to be the same. I try to score more goals than last season. Personally I have played a good season, I have been there in the big games and I scored a lot of important goals, this is why I’m better this season.”
Hazard’s goal last weekend earned Jose Mourinho’s men a 1-0 win over Manchester United. He picked out that moment as one of his best of the campaign.
Asked to describe his season in a single word, Hazard struggled. “I don’t want to say ‘amazing’ because it is not finished yet – maybe amazing!” he said.
“I started the season not to be the PFA Player of the Year but it was in my head – I want to be the best and I hope one day I can win a lot of trophies.
“I just want to say thank you to the players who voted for me – it is always good to have an individual trophy but the most important thing is to win the league.
“I hope I can win a lot of trophies again – the most important is to win the league. Without my team-mates I would not be here.
“Jose [Mourinho] lets me play, we talk sometimes together and when I’m on the pitch I know what I have to do, this is most important.
“We are almost there to win the league. Last season we finished third, now we can bring the trophy to Stamford Bridge. Personally I have played a very good season, have scored a lot of important goals and this is why I’m here.”
Mourinho has long sung the praises of the 24-year-old, believing that Hazard is rivalled by only Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the global order.
‘“I had lots of stars, but he is the humble star,” the Portuguese said last weekend. “He knows that he is one of the three best players in the world, the responsibility that comes [with that] and he is coping with that responsibility.
“He understands that his talent is fundamental for the team.”
Hazard was earlier named in the PFA Premier League team of the year – for the third time in his three seasons in England.
He was one of six Blues players in the XI, along with captain John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Ivanovic, though, was in no doubt as to the team’s most influential cog.
The Serbia defender, speaking about Hazard last week, said: “He has been our most important player since day one.
“He is the guy who you just have to give the ball and he will do everything. Sometimes he looks so impressive, like he is not from this world.’’
Hazard arrived at Stamford Bridge in June 2012 – having been crowned Ligue 1 player of the year in each of his final two campaigns with Lille – for a fee reportedly around £32 million.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane – the only English attacking player in the team of the season – took the 2014-15 Young Player of the Year award.
The 21-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise to stardom, scoring 30 goals for Spurs in all competitions this term despite not being given a regular starting slot until November.
He helped Mauricio Pochettino’s men to the Capital One Cup final, and also scored 79 seconds into his senior England debut as a substitute in the 4-0 European Championship qualifying victory over Lithuania at Wembley last month.
Former England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard shared the PFA Merit award.
The veteran pair will leave the Premier League for Major League Soccer in the summer – Gerrard to Los Angeles Galaxy and Lampard to New York City – having left an indelible mark on English football.