Eden, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Artists are rarely straightforward and forthcoming about their work. Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album Blood on the Tracks was written and recorded during the end of his relationship with his wife Sara. It is a great breakup record, but Dylan denies it was autobiographical. “A lot of people thought that album pertained to me. It didn’t pertain to me,” he said. The American songwriter cites Anton Chekhov as a bigger influence on this work than the collapse of his marriage. Chekhov’s talent was to make a character or a scene say more to the reader by writing fewer words, not more.

Eden Hazard
Art by Charbak Dipta

Eden Hazard is off to Madrid, and he’s not explicitly saying it. Instead, he’s recording a breakup album for Chelsea fans, and each match until the end of the season is a new song. His performance against West Ham was the football equivalent of Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”

I’ve been shooting in the dark too long
When somethin’s not right it’s wrong
When somethin’s not right it’s wrong

As a Chelsea fan, I hated international breaks. Every Belgium match for the last five years brought out new quotes from Hazard about Real Madrid. It was scary at first but soon become tiresome. These days though, it’s just sad. The relationship, while not yet over, is fated to end and we all know it. It’s like a husband and wife who have decided to sleep in separate beds and begin making mental notes of how to divide up their belongings. How did it come to this, they wonder. Is it just another case of the seven-year itch?

Like a doomed couple, we (Hazard, the club, fans, me) have been growing apart for so long, the drift so gradual, it was impossible to discern. I can’t believe Eden’s time in west London is coming to an end. When Hazard started phoning it in while the team stumbled its way through it’s worst season of the Roman Abramovich era in 2015/16, I believed we would grow stronger having passed through the hardship together. The title won with Antonio Conte made us complacent in our relationship, and that uncritical satisfaction meant both sides stop trying. And all it took was a “simple twist of fate” to serve as the catalyst for the eventual divorce.

Hazard will leave Chelsea this summer because of Santiago Solari’s inability to right the Real Madrid ship. The Spanish giants were forced to recall Zinedine Zidane. The moment Zizou rocked up at the Bernabeu with his trendy jeans and smart coat, Eden’s fate was sealed. The Belgian realized what he’d been missing all these years, shuttling around Stamford Bridge with his domestic responsibilities. This new suitor wouldn’t make him track back. No, he could finally be happy. Free.

But this time around it’s more correct
Right on target, so direct
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

In the meantime though, there is the small matter of finishing out the current season. West Ham came to Stamford Bridge and got a front row seat to Hazard’s mastery. He reminded us why we all fell in love with him in the first place in the 24th minute. He picked up the ball in midfield and brought it forward through the middle. Normally, this would be the part where he stopped the ball, casually passed it off to a teammate, and continued forward into the attack. This time though he saw he was facing Mark Noble. The ease with which Hazard went past the Englishman made punters at the Bridge to go weak at the knees. He sped forward and chopped the ball one way then the other. His control left the center halves stunned, as if he had deployed a series of flashbangs at the top of the box. The finish was a mere formality. He put his hands to his ears, reminding the Chelsea faithful to appreciate now what they’ve had these last seven years.

Can’t remember what I was thinkin’ of
You might be spoilin’ me too much, love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

Everything that comes after a goal like that is icing on the cake. His first touch after putting Chelsea up 1-0 was to find Higuain with an impossible pass and the Argentine nearly added another, hitting the post. And so it continued for the rest of the match. We have been spoiled all these years, watching week in and week out as Hazard sent opponents the wrong way and manipulated the ball in impossible ways. As he ran past five West Ham defenders in the second half, I tried not to think about next season. His second goal in the 90th minute made that impossible. Like a true master, he made us wait for the final flourish, ensuring everyone went home with his name on their lips. His teammates gathered around to embrace him, but there was no ebullience in the celebrations. These were farewells.

But there’s no way I can compare
All them scenes to this affair
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

The end of a relationship is often difficult because we don’t know how to process the previous years. What do I do with all those good times? I don’t want to use them to wallow in the pain of loss, and I don’t want to ignore them. I want to celebrate what we had. How can I forget when we were first introduced on that cloudy August day in 2012? Hazard destroyed Wigan in less than 6 minutes, assisting the first goal and earning a penalty. Or that goal at the Battle of the Bridge that ended any chance of Tottenham catching Leicester. Or the 60 yard run and goal that left Arsenal defenders literally spinning. And kicking that ballboy at Swansea. Yes, Eden, we’ll always have Paris.

But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

Chelsea’s partnership with Hazard will end, but neither will be afforded the space to examine what it all meant. The little playmaker will do some kick-ups at the Bernabeu. He’ll crack a joke, and the Madridistas will lap it up. The Blues will show off Christian Pulisic, and we’ll all move on. Sort of.

Sure, Callum Hudson-Odoi (assuming he doesn’t skip off to Bavaria) will attempt the same tricks and flicks, but he won’t do it with a smile as Hazard would. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will hold on to the ball, making it impossible for defenders to take it off of him, but it won’t be the same. There will be something missing on matchdays. The DJ at Stamford Bridge will try to drown out that creeping sense of longing with upbeat numbers, but he’ll be tempted to throw on something from Blood on the Tracks. Until, finally, maybe during the busy festive period, I’ll notice I’m not thinking about how Hazard would spin away from a defender if he had been there. It will feel somehow wrong, like it doesn’t honor the feelings of the preceding six months. But, eventually, we’ll move on, and it won’t feel so strange to see him with Los Blancos. I’ll move on from playing “Buckets of Rain” to “If You See Her, Say Hello.”

But that all feels very far away right now. Eden, you’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.