In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the Belgian playmaker reflects on his first few months in the Bundesliga, the challenges of adapting to a new league and speaks of his pride at helping the Foals set a new club record.
bundesliga.com: Your full name is Thorgan Ganael Francis Hazard. Is there a story behind your two middle names?
Hazard: Yes there is [laughs]. Ganael is my godfather’s name and Francias is my grandfather’s name.
bundesliga.com: On Matchday 11 Gladbach’s run of 18 competitive games without defeat came to an end away to Borussia Dortmund. Why was that?
Hazard: It wasn’t due to a lack of confidence. I think it was more that we lacked the necessary commitment, desire and belief that we could win. We were too passive and let Dortmund control the game. Maybe unconsciously we would have been satisfied with a point. But you can’t forget that Dortmund are a great team, even if they were bottom of the table going into that game.
bundesliga.com: How did your coach Lucien Favre react to the defeat?
Hazard: He complimented Dortmund’s pressing in particular but also emphasised that we can play much better than we did. However, we all knew that we would lose a game eventually and the coach said it wasn’t the end of the world.
bundesliga.com: That 18-game run was a club record. How much of Gladbach’s history are you familiar with?
Hazard: It was something very special for me, and for everyone in the team, to have been part of that success. We managed to get our names in the record books and now we’re an important part of this club’s proud history.
bundesliga.com: You’ve been a Chelsea player since 2012 but haven’t yet played a competitive game for them...
Hazard: I joined Chelsea from the French second division when I was 18, so I was well aware that I wouldn’t play there initially. Chelsea’s policy is to sign up talented young players and then loan them out so that they can mature. They did exactly the same with Romelu Lukaku, and Thibout Courtois so I wasn’t expecting anything different.
bundesliga.com: How is your German coming along?
Hazard: Moving to Germany was a massive challenge for me in terms of the language, no question. That makes it all the nicer that I can speak French with my team-mates , and . Of course it’s also a big help that the coach speaks French too.
bundesliga.com: How often do you visit your family in Belgium?
Hazard: Even though it’s not that far to the Belgian border it’s still a two and a half hour drive to my parents’ house. I’ve only done that twice during the international breaks over the last four months. It’s not a problem though because I feel settled here, especially because my girlfriend, my daughter and my dog are here too.
'In the Bundesliga you're constantly on the move for 90 minutes'
bundesliga.com: Are you in touch with any of your fellow Belgians in the Bundesliga?
Hazard: I’m very close friends with at VfL Wolfsburg as we played together at Zulte Waregem. We're in contact frequently.
bundesliga.com: Is there anything typically Belgian you miss?
bundesliga.com: French fries? You can eat those in Germany too...
Hazard: Yes, that’s true, but I like good chips [laughs]!
bundesliga.com: Food aside, how have you adapted to the Bundesliga?
Hazard: The physical intensity of the Bundesliga is very different to Belgium and at the start it was a big change for me. Here the demands put on you in matches and in training are higher than in the Jupiler League. In the Bundesliga every player is constantly on the move for 90 minutes, getting forwards but also defending. But I think I’ve got used to it now. I’ve also been very impressed with the fantastic stadiums in Germany. Almost every game seems to be sold out here.
bundesliga.com: How would you sum up your first four months in the Bundesliga with Gladbach?
Hazard: I had more playing time in Belgium than I’ve had here but I’m satisfied overall. I’ve played in the Europa League and the DFB Cup and have managed to score.
bundesliga.com: Your brother Eden, a star at Chelsea, is reported to have said that you are a better player than he is...
Hazard: I have three brothers, all of whom play football. Kylian is 19 and is currently at my former club Zulte Waregem. Ethan is only 11 and only plays for fun at the moment but he’s got talent. In my opinion Eden is one of the best players in the world. It’d be amazing to be better than him, but that’s still a long way off.
bundesliga.com: As well as your brothers, both of your parents also played football...
Hazard: My dad played in the Belgian second division and my mum played in the women’s first division. She only stopped when she was pregnant with Eden.
bundesliga.com: Given that you come from such a footballing family, was a different profession ever an option?
Hazard: I tried a lot of different sports apart from football, like tennis and basketball but once Eden started making progress and managed to make the step up into the professional game at French first division side LOSC Lille it was a huge moment for the whole family. From then on I knew that I also wanted to become a footballer.
Thorgan Hazard was speaking to Andreas Kötter