Thorgan Hazard: Christensen and Musonda can make it at Chelsea

The former Blues player has moved to the Bundesliga and found success, but he thinks that two of his close colleagues can make it in west London


EXCLUSIVE


Former Chelsea player Thorgan Hazard is backing young Blues stars Andreas Christensen and Charly Musonda to make a big impact at the club over the next few seasons. 

Thorgan Hazard happy at Gladbach but admits PL lure

Hazard’s Borussia Monchengladbach are resurgent in recent weeks with Hazard and on-loan Christensen showing their best form, with the 23-year-old attacker scoring as his two goals in his side’s last two games to achieve four wins in a row.

Goal understands that Christensen is expected to return to Chelsea in the summer, despite Gladbach’s wishes to buy or loan him for another season, and Hazard believes that his current team-mate has a great future.

“When he arrived everybody in the team and at the club were saying “wow”, what a defender, what a player,” he told Goal at Borussia Park. “He can play football, he is strong, he is fast, he is intelligent and so he has helped us a lot and helped us get Champions League qualification. 

“I think he has a great future and he can play at a top, top level at a top, top team. When a 19-year-old comes into defence like this and does this and I am very confident about his future.

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“We have a good relationship and we played also at Chelsea for a month. We played in the youth team and trained together, but I didn’t realise until he came here that he was so good.

“First he came here and nobody knew who he was. He came in here, at 19 years old and when he played in the first game, it was difficult because it was against Dortmund. The team lost and it was difficult for him because then he didn’t play for two or three games. 

“He wasn’t like he is now, he is a developing talent. There are a few players here who can speak his language like Jannik Vestergaard and Oscar Wendt which helps him. I think it is a club for young players and it is very good to come here.

“They give their opportunity also to play in a great club, great atmosphere and a great championship. Most of the guys are very good. It is a high level. You can see also with Christensen, Dahoud and Elvedi, but other guys too who are young players coming into the team this season. They help the team and learn.”

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Meanwhile, Hazard has a friendship with his countryman Musonda who has recently returned to Chelsea after the second half of his loan spell at Real Betis, was not as successful as his first half, due to a change of managers. 

FIFA 17's most promising youngsters | Charly Musonda

Antonio Conte has been impressed with Musonda in training and he could make his Chelsea debut in the FA Cup against Wolves at the weekend. Hazard sympathises with Musonda’s battle for first-team places as he competes with his older brother Eden, who plays in the same position as the 20-year-old. 

“Charly is a friend. He decided to go on loan to Betis and the first year he was fantastic for Charly,” he continued. “After that there was a change in the coach. They changed the trainer and sometimes they want to play with you and sometimes they don’t want to.

“So after he decided to return to Chelsea and he decided to take a place in the squad so I know Charly and I think he is a winner. He will fight for that and I hope he can do this [play for Chelsea].

“I think he knows also that there are very good players in his position, so he needs to fight very, very hard. My brother, Willian and Pedro and it is a lot of players.”

Thorgan Hazard

Chelsea currently have 35 players out on loan across a range of clubs, including those in the Bundesliga and Hazard was one of those loan stars who was sent away to develop. 

It has been well publicised that Chelsea lost players who are now highly valued in the transfer market through the system, like Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, but Hazard was keen to say that he feels the idea is working for the west London club.

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“I think it is a good system that Chelsea have and they have a lot of young players who need to play. At Chelsea you have a very good team so it is difficult sometimes for the younger players. 

“For that reason they go on loan, to develop them and after the first year on loan. I came here and sometimes the players will go back or sometimes they want to stay and play like me.

“There can be the opportunity to play in Chelsea, but you have to decide whether you need another year away [at the end of every season]. If the player thinks he is ready to go back to Chelsea then they will let you go.

“As we saw with me, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. If you want to go – it is your decision. I am not sure, but I think it was the decision from those guys to go – as well as me away from Chelsea. But the system is very good for the player and it is good that they don’t block you and, if you want to go then go.”

New York City FC signs MLS veteran Rodney Wallace

The left-sided player joins as a free agent after the MLS club acquired his rights in a trade from Portland.

New York City FC has signed MLS veteran Rodney Wallace, the club announced Wednesday.

Wallace was a free agent after spending the last year and a half abroad. After leaving the Portland Timbers as a free agent following the 2015 season, Wallace played two games with Portuguese top division side Arouca and 25 games with Sport Recife of Brazil’s Serie A.

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The Timbers retained Wallace’s rights, so NYCFC had to acquire those rights in a trade in order to complete the signing. NYCFC sent $75K in general allocation money and $50K in targeted allocation money to Portland in the trade.

“It’s a great honor to be an NYCFC player – it’s a dream come true to get this done and be here with such a great organization and a good team,” Wallace said in a press release. “I’ve watched a lot of the NYCFC games since the team came to the league and I was attracted to the style of play.

“I want to win trophies with this club, I want to come here and add to a bigger piece. We all want to achieve big things together and I’m just really happy to be here and to work towards that.”

Prior to his time abroad, the Costa Rica international had spent seven seasons in MLS. After two campaigns with D.C. United, Wallace spent five years with the Timbers and capped off his time there with an MLS Cup win in 2015, scoring the game-winning goal in the final.

Rodney Wallace Portland Timbers MLS Cup

A left-sided player, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira specifically highlighted Wallace’s versatility as a reason for excitement over the move.

“Rodney is a quality player who can play as a winger, as a left-back or as a left midfielder,” Vieira said. “He’s really good with the ball and he knows how to win the championship as he did it with Portland.

“He will bring his experience to this squad which is great for us – I’m really looking forward to him coming because I believe that he’s one of the top players in this league.”

Wallace has bagged 19 goals and added 22 assists in his MLS career. He has also earned 17 caps for Costa Rica, with his last appearance coming in the Tico’s 4-0 thrashing of the United States in World Cup qualifying in November.

Mertens: My parents would have been disappointed with China move

Having money is important to the in-form Belgian, but he was not ready to sacrifice his career to make a move to the CSL

Napoli ace Dries Mertens has admitted that money is important to him, but not the extent that he would move to China at this stage of his career.

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The Belgium ace has been in superb form of late and is readying himself to face Real Madrid in the Champions League, but according to leaked documents he earns only €2 million per season.

While a large salary is important to him, he does not want to allow it to drive his career direction and would not be willing to move to the Chinese Super League, where numerous stars have gone lately due to the riches on offer.

It is an attitude that saw him turn down a move east, and he puts it down to the influence of his parents.

“My father drove a bus in Anderlecht and he took me to training every day in Brussels from when I was 11 to 18. I have so much respect for when my parents did. They did not raise me talking about money and I would have disappointed them if I went to China,” he told La Libre.

“My dad reads everything about me. He is very proud and I want them to be even more so.” 

Dries Mertens Napoli Palermo Serie A

He also explained that he could “never” play with players of a lower quality.

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“My friends tell me I would have gone mad if a pass had not arrived perfectly,” he admitted. “But maybe at the end of the month when you check your bank balance you would calm down.

“If I had been a substitute, like last season, I would have gone and chosen the money.

“We weighed up the pros and cons, my wife read testimonials from people of who live there, and you about the smog and it doesn’t seem like a healthy atmosphere. So I decided to say no, and I can tell you it’s difficult to refuse such an amount. My children and even my grandchildren would not have had to worry about their future.

“We hear players saying that they’re signing for the adventure, but no-one believes them.”

The 29-year-old did confess to being driven by money.

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Asked if a big contract is important to him, he replied: “Of course, even if it sounds a bit much. We see crazy amounts going around. But it’s just reality.”

Nevertheless, when he quits football, he will take up another job.

“But I want to have freedom to choose what I want to do,” he said. “I’m not going to lay about after my career. My wife will work, too.

“If I decide to spend a month in Australia, I don’t want to have to worry about airline tickets or the fact a fast trip is more expensive. I’m sorry, but I’ve been working hard for this.

“I’d like to get to know the world because we travel a lot without seeing anything – except from hotels and pitches.”

Minnesota acquires veteran Bobby Shuttleworth from Revolution for Femi Hollinger-Janzen

The MLS debutantes have traded for the 29-year-old keeper, giving New England a player it lost in the expansion draft.

Minnesota United has acquired keeper Bobby Shuttleworth from the New England Revolution in exchange for Femi Hollinger-Janzen, the two MLS teams announced Wednesday.

The trade is a straight player swap with no money exchanged in the deal.

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“Bobby’s a great player who has had a lot of strong performances in goal for New England,” Minnesota Sporting Director Manny Lagos said in a press release. “His experience and quality will be an important addition and asset throughout the season here with the club.”

Shuttleworth, 29, is entering his eighth season in MLS. He has spent the last four as the Revolution’s starting keeper. He helped the team to an MLS Cup final appearance in 2014 and a U.S. Open Cup final appearance in 2016.

The other keepers on Minnesota’s roster are John Alvbage, a long-time veteran of Sweden’s top division, Patrick McLain and Alec Ferrell.

Hollinger-Janzen, a third round selection in the 2016 MLS draft, made 19 appearances in his rookie campaign with the Revolution. The forward scored one goal and added a pair of assists.

Femi Hollinger Janzen New England Revolution MLS

However, the Revolution lost Hollinger-Janzen in the expansion draft earlier this offseason.

“The entire New England Revolution organization thanks Bobby for his years of service. We wish him well in the next phase of his career with Minnesota,” Revolution General Manager Michael Burns said in a press release. “We are pleased to have Femi back on the roster for the 2017 season and look forward to welcoming him back to the club.”

The trade may mean a starting opportunity for Cody Cropper. The U.S. youth international joined the Revolution in 2016 after spending the early portion of his career in the lower leagues in England. Cropper, 24, made one start for the Revolution last season — a 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact in October.

Brad Knighton and Matt Turner are the other keepers on the Revolution’s roster. 

Bayern beating shows why lethal Lewandowski never even considered joining anaemic Arsenal

The prolific Pole’s decision to ignore the Gunners’ interest in his services was vindicated during Bayern’s latest rout of the hapless Londoners


COMMENT


Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Neither Robert Lewandowski nor Bayern Munich looked overly happy with how the first 45 minutes unravelled in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 clash with Arsenal, but the Polish hitman led the charge as Carlo Ancelotti’s men moved through the gears and broke their visitors’ resistance in all-too-familiar fashion. 

There is no doubt that the Champions League holds special significance for the Bavarians. Pep Guardiola enjoyed a wildly successful three years at the Allianz Arena, but a trio of failed campaigns for Europe’s biggest prize eventually convinced him that Manchester City and the Premier League would be a better option. In response, Bayern turned to a Champions League specialist in Carlo Ancelotti, who has lifted the trophy three times, and with two different clubs (AC Milan and Real Madrid).

Sad Arsenal blown away by Bayern

Through both the Pep and Carlo eras, Lewandowski has rarely erred. He boasts goalscoring numbers up there with the very best in world football: 25 in his first season after switching from Dortmund; 41 in 52 games the following year; and going into Wednesday’s clash no less than 23 strikes in 29 outings. 

Both world-renowned coaches came under the microscope in the Bundesliga, but kept – and in Ancelotti’s case, keeps – racking up wins built on the goals of the prolific Pole. And small wonder, as against Arsenal he proved that even when the chips are down he is capable of responding magnificently – unlike Arsene Wenger’s group of fair-weather bottlers. 

Laurent Koscielny Robert Lewandowski Arsenal Bayern 2017

During the first half, Lewandowski appeared stricken with the same collective ennui that had enveloped the vast majority of Bayern’s XI, the admirable Arjen Robben apart. He squandered a fine chance to extend the lead from close range, before finding himself inside his own box and out of his comfort zone as Laurent Koscielny won a penalty off the back of the forward’s clumsy attempt to clear. 

The overall effect was a team that, far from advancing on the extreme possession tactics of Pep, indulged in the worst excesses of the playing style associated so closely with the Catalan. Arsenal took just 21.2 percent of the ball in that opening period, and yet managed more shots on goal than their ponderous hosts. It was a scenario that had the Allianz Arena restless with impatience. 

But then Lewandowski stepped up to the mark – again. The No.9 had been ineffective, even a liability before the break, and he came out of the dressing room determined to atone for his errors. A looping cross from Philipp Lahm eight minutes into the second half gave him the opportunity he was looking for.

WATCH: Robben’s stunning strike!

Soaring majestically, Lewandowski connected with a towering header that gave David Ospina no chance, breaking the deadlock and putting Bayern 2-1 ahead. Arsenal had left the door ajar for the hosts and they proceeded to batter it open with pace, strength and precision. 

Nobody embodies those qualities quite so completely in the Bayern squad as Lewandowski. Thiago Alcantara was the lucky beneficiary of a wonderful flick that left the ex-Barca man en route to goal, and another strike from the midfielder and later Thomas Muller leaves this tie, if not totally liquidated, then at least an almost foregone conclusion for Ancelotti’s men. 

Arjen Robben Bayern Munich Champions League

Do not be fooled by the scoreline. Bayern were not quite so dominant as the final result would have one believe; indeed, Arsenal went into the break sensing a glorious chance for revenge on the opponent that has ended their Champions League dreams on so many painful occasions in recent years. When it came to the tie’s decisive moments, however, they simply did not have the players with the talent or character to impose themselves and take a famous victory. 

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Arsene Wenger is surely aware of this. One of the players he has identified in the past to lead his forward line is none other than Lewandowski, although his hopes of landing the Pole took a serious blow in December when, amid public protestations of love for his club, Lewandowski extended his Bayern contract until 2021. 

On the evidence of the Bavarians’ latest – almost annual – victory over Arsenal, it is not hard to see why. Lewandowski showed all of his quality, both physically and mentally, to bounce back from his blooper and lead from the front in a crushing victory. He is Bayern’s hero, a player of both character and quality. How Wenger must wish he had a No.9 like Lewandowski.

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