Eden Hazard

Chelsea vs Lille: The Champions League tie connected by Eden Hazard

Jude Summerfield
Hazard starred for both Chelsea and Lille
Hazard starred for both Chelsea and Lille / Jamie McDonald / PHILIPPE HUGUEN | Getty Images

There are a few players who have turned out for both Chelsea and Lille.

Joe Cole became a legend at Stamford Bridge in the 2000s before spending on loan in France. Salomon Kalou spent six years with Chelsea before joining Lille in 2012. Loic Remy is more of a footnote, but he still scored over 30 goals combined for the two clubs.

However, there's only one player who comes to mind instinctively when thinking about Chelsea and Lille, and that is Eden Hazard.

While the Belgian may be struggling at Real Madrid these days, he was one of the best ballers in Europe during the 2010s, first coming onto the scene with Les Dogues.

His debut came way back in 2007 in a 12-minute cameo during a 2-0 defeat to Nancy, and he netted his first professional goal a year later in a dramatic 3-2 win over Auxerre.

It was a nice finish too - a low strike from just outside the box in the 88th minute, levelling the score up before Tulio de Melo won Lille the match.

Hazard soon became a regular and his scoring returns gradually improved before he got everyone's attention in the 2010/11 season, when Lille won the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France double. With seven goals and ten assists in 38 league games, the forward was quickly becoming one of Europe's biggest stars.

The 2011/12 campaign, while not Lille's best as they finished behind champions Montpellier and runners-up Paris Saint-Germain, proved to be Hazard's apex in France as he recorded 20 goals and 16 assists in Ligue 1, while he also got his first taste of Champions League football, though it ended prematurely in the group stages.

And then came the tweet. You know which one we're talking about.

With most of Europe's giants linked with a move for Hazard, the Belgian waited just over a week after Chelsea had won the Champions League to reveal where he was heading.

Once he arrived at Stamford Bridge, it was quickly clear to see Chelsea had signed one of modern football's great forwards. The Premier League is notoriously one of the harder competitions to acclimatise to, but Hazard needed no bedding-in period. Instead, he quickly matured into a world class talent.

He won the Europa League in his debut season and the PFA Young Player of the Year award in his second before Premier League title success in his third.

A year of scrutiny followed in 2015/16, during which he flirted with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but he still endeared himself to Blues supporters with a dramatic equaliser against Tottenham which ended their London rivals' Premier League title hopes.

With Antonio Conte's arrival came another league title triumph alongside a first FA Cup win, and he continued his excellent form into his final season in west London, bagging 16 league goals and winning another Europa League. He scored twice in that final victory against Arsenal, suggesting it would be his last game for Chelsea.

Heartbreakingly for Blues fans, his move to Real Madrid was confirmed later in the summer of 2019.

Chelsea and Lille are in different places to where they were when Hazard turned out for them. Chelsea are lacking that joyful flair in their attack, while Lille - even if they won the league last season - have been poor in Ligue 1, sitting in the bottom half of the table.

Chelsea are favourites for the tie, with the first leg set for Tuesday, and while when the action commences there'll be little thought of former players, until then the focus will be on one joyful player and him alone.

For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!