Eden Hazard‘s English Channel crossing to Chelsea and Shinji Kagawa‘s move to Manchester United have left supporters of both clubs excited about their respective acquisitions. But which star will have the bigger impact for his new team?
Riding a tidal wave of momentum following its first Champions League conquest, the pensioners moved quickly to sign one of the world’s most coveted players in Hazard. Chelsea owner (check signer) Roman Abramovich spent a massive £35.3 million ($54.3 million) on Lille’s key player, but when your luxury yacht comes with its own submarine and missile defense system, money isn’t much of an object.
Trophy-less following the soul-crushing Premier League steal by Manchester City, and a group-stage exit from the UEFA Champions League before that, the Red Devils could have a busy summer ahead. They made their first foray into the transfer market through the £17 million ($26.3 million) signing of Kagawa, and will be expecting a big return from the former Borussia Dortmund star.
In Hazard, Chelsea signed one of the most complete attacking midfielders in the game. Combining top-end speed with matching technical ability (not to mention a range of tricks most players wouldn’t even consider), the Belgian delighted Lille fans with his direct running at opposing defenders. However, unlike many flair players, Hazard is extremely efficient in his end product. His tally of 20 goals and 16 assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances reflects his ease at playing both distributor and finisher for the attacking side.
Much like Hazard, Kagawa is lightning fast and excellent with the ball at his feet. While Hazard may be faster at a dead sprint, Kagawa’s agility and positional sense allow him to exploit small pockets between defenders and quickly combine with teammates. His numbers from last year (13 goals and eight assists in 31 Bundesliga outings) don’t quite compare with Hazard’s, but Kagawa’s tactical discipline and defensive work rate are two clear advantages over the former Lille man.
Tactically, both players bring a great deal of flexibility to their respective managers (though exactly who will manage Hazard at Chelsea remains to be seen). Hazard spent most of his Lille career cutting inside from the left flank, but accrued his ridiculous stats of last season from a central position. His ability to play both positions is a huge bonus for his new team, as it allows Chelsea to potentially play Hazard alongside fellow attacking midfielders Juan Mata and Marko Marin.
Though Kagawa spent almost all of last season playing centrally for Dortmund, the Japanese ace is more than competent playing on either flank as well. With United lacking a true central playmaker, manager Sir Alex Ferguson could play Kagawa just off of striker Wayne Rooney to tremendous effect. However, if Ferguson continues directing Rooney to drop deep and link play, it’s likely that Kagawa will have to fight it out with Antonio Valencia, Nani, and Ashley Young for playing time out wide.
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