Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard: A Tale of Friendship and Football on and off the Field

2023-10-10 13:58:00

Christian Benteke met Eden Hazard during his first matches with the Belgian under-17 team. At the beginning of May 2007, they took part in the Euro of the category, organized in Belgium. They were eliminated in the semi-final against David De Gea’s Spain, but Hazard was already noticed for his talent, and remarkable in what he did.

Benteke, thirty-five days his senior, discovers an already carefree Eden, with a mullet cut. “When we were in the youth national team, we went into our discussions with lots of dreams in mind. These moments remain the most important for me, because they represent Eden as she is. He loves football, but he prefers moments off the field, to create a connection, a friendship. We were able to share these moments, among the young people, and we got along directly.”

The Belgian team which lost in the semi-final of Euro 2007 U17 against Spain, with Eden Hazard (10) and Christian Benteke (9). ©Photo News

The two players kept in touch, made their careers on their own, one in Lille, the other in Belgian clubs (Standard, Kortrijk, Mechelen and Genk), but they found themselves in the Premier League the same year, for the summer of 2012, and they became neighbors in London, when Benteke signed for Crystal Palace in 2016. There was little mention of football in their conversations. “What has always struck me about Eden is her I-don’t-care attitude. But that’s what represents him best. He didn’t take things seriously, he was always relaxed, but above all he was himself. When we were in contact, we talked very little about football. We talked more about family.”

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“His I-don’t-care attitude is what represents him best.”

Hazard’s move to Real Madrid did not break the link, and Benteke explains: “When he was injured, we had discussions about his return, about the involvement. I kept telling him: we are in a pyramid, and we, the players at my level, are in the middle of the pyramid, we had to work like crazy, and suffer. You are at the top of this pyramid. If you don’t suffer now, when will you suffer? Take it as a challenge.”

Asked to talk about the player Eden Hazard, how he left his mark on him, Christian Benteke sums it up like this: “His way of playing is his way of being, in fact. And that is perhaps what was detrimental to him (in Madrid), in the sense that he was too much him, in a world where you are obliged to give a certain image of yourself. In the best club in the world, you have to be cunning while he was too much himself.”

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