01172018

Paris Saint-Germain’s supporters want a player who delivers on big nights… Eden Hazard is nowhere near that level at present 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched into one of his most extravagant knee-slides, arms out-stretched, with a smug look of satisfaction on his face and Paris Saint-Germain fans summoned a roar of adoration for their talisman.

So what if it was a deflected free-kick. Zlatan had made an impact, firing his team into the lead in their most important game of the season to date.

Note to Eden Hazard: this is what they expect from their heroes. It is quite a void to fill. They have grown accustomed to someone who delivers on big nights, who embraces responsibility. Most of Europe’s big clubs are. 

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (right) gets physical with Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (right) gets physical with Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva

PSG's Marquinhos heads clear despite the attention of Hazard at the Parc des Princes 

PSG’s Marquinhos heads clear despite the attention of Hazard at the Parc des Princes 

Hazard skips past the tackle of Lucas during an eventful first-half in Paris 

Hazard skips past the tackle of Lucas during an eventful first-half in Paris 

Brilliant as he was last season, Hazard is nowhere near this level. Not at the moment. And when Jose Mourinho tried to cajole him towards the status of superstardom it seemed to have the opposite effect.

His pre-match comments did nothing to endear him to Chelsea supporters and another tepid display in an underwhelming season will not win back hearts.

He was not awful. He was not the reason Guus Hiddink’s team lost. He kept his shape, tracked back and linked up play but made little creative impact and at times looked plain bored before he limped off as if still troubled by the dodgy hip issue.

It would be “hard to say no” to PSG, a team maturing into a Champions League force, the Belgian told Le Parisien, this week. He clearly still values his profile in France where he emerged from the youth ranks at Lille.

Hazard, however, has downed tools since winning the title last May, and the occasion in Paris proved unable to rekindle any of the magic.

Opportunities were limited, in fairness. PSG dominated and Mourinho would have been proud of Hazard’s willingness to track back and assist Baba Rahman in the opening phase, when the pressure was on. 

PSG defender David Luiz jokes with Hazard as the Parisians sealed a 2-1 first-leg lead against Chelsea 

PSG defender David Luiz jokes with Hazard as the Parisians sealed a 2-1 first-leg lead against Chelsea 

There was a key interception, and one flash of his orange boots and a pass to Diego Costa, but 20 minutes had passed before Chelsea enjoyed any serious possession and Hazard suffered.

He flickered when they came to life midway through the first-half, darting inside from the left, carrying the ball and releasing short passes, but he did not trouble Marquinhos, a centre-half deputising at full-back for Serge Aurier, suspended by PSG after an online mishap which offered a new perspective on Hazard’s own pre-match faux pas.

For the seven minutes when the home side led in the first-half, between Ibrahimovic’s deflected free-kick and that rarest of sightings, a John Obi Mikel goal, the Belgian seemed to lose a little heart.

On the ball, he was still alive, but frustrations boiled to the surface when passes went astray. Hazard shrugged shoulders and threw down his arms when possession was surrendered cheaply and walked around looking at his feet. 

Hazard was hurt during the second-half following a mid-air collision with Marco Verratti

Hazard was hurt during the second-half following a mid-air collision with Marco Verratti

When he was hurt in a mid-air collision with Marco Verratti, after the break, he climbed slowly to his feet and spent a good few minutes hobbling and flexing joints. He looked as if he might have to stop for a breather as he trudged off to be replaced by Oscar.

Hip trouble has nagged away this season, eating at his fitness and spirit, along with the poor form and frequent criticism from Mourinho. Perhaps he is right to wonder if a change of scenery will be the best for all concerned.

There were times on Tuesday night when he looked plain bored. 

Hazard leaves the field after Blues boss Guus Hiddink replaced him with Oscar in the 70th minute 

Hazard leaves the field after Blues boss Guus Hiddink replaced him with Oscar in the 70th minute 

If PSG do swoop in this summer, or Real Madrid for that matter, it may be that Chelsea will find it hardest to say no. They paid £32million for him when they were European champions and seem unlikely to be back in the competition next season.

They can survive for now on the slender hope that they can lift this trophy in Milan in May. Either way, this feels like the right time for a makeover: a new manager, a new captain, no European competition.

Big money for Hazard can help fund it. There is little point forcing him to honour the contract if his heart is elsewhere. On Tuesday night, at times, it seemed as if it might be.

An exit strategy might not be such an outrageous proposition.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened scoring with a deflected free-kick for Paris Saint-Germain early in the first-half 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened scoring with a deflected free-kick for Paris Saint-Germain early in the first-half 

John Obi Mikel fired in Chelsea's equaliser with last kick of the first-half 

John Obi Mikel fired in Chelsea’s equaliser with last kick of the first-half 

Edinson Cavani smashes the ball past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to restore the home side's lead 

Edinson Cavani smashes the ball past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to restore the home side’s lead 

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