Although Thorgan Hazard had to spend most of his days in the training camp in Marbella training separately from the team, the Belgian seems to have settled into his life in black and yellow. Having only arrived at Borussia Dortmund from Mönchengladbach in the summer, Hazard has already proven himself to be an important piece of the puzzle in the system of coach Lucien Favre in the first half of the season. In an interview with BVB.de, the 26-year-old talks about breaking his personal curse, a "Big Kid" in the team and his conviction that the target for the season is still a very real possibility.
BVB.de: Hi Thorgan! Before we start, one quick question: did you have a nice Christmas break?
Thorgan Hazard: "It was very good! I celebrated Christmas with my family in France. On New Year's Eve we were all together in Dubai."
BVB.de: Your two brothers Eden and Kylian are also professional footballers. Can the Hazard family manage not to talk about football over the winter break?
Hazard: "Yes, it works pretty well, football is rarely a topic of discussion. My little brother Kylian (who plays at Cercle Brugge in the Belgian first division, editor’s note) played on the day after Christmas. We were all in the stadium, watching him. Other than that, we played with the children a lot and went on walks."
BVB.de: Surely you still mentioned something about your first half of the season as a Borussia Dortmund player?
Hazard: "Of course, I said I thought it was quite good. But I know that there is some room for improvement. That goes both for me personally and for our team. We had some very good phases, but also weak periods here and there. Unfortunately, it has to be said, we were lacking consistency."
BVB.de: One of the best games in the first half of the season for you personally has to be the Bundesliga game against your former club, Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Hazard: "That's right, I remember that one. I even scored a goal, but unfortunately it didn’t count…"
BVB.de: …because it was overturned by VAR. Initially you still celebrated your goal – right in front of the away fans too.
Hazard: "That was not my intention. I want to make that clear at this point. Many Gladbach fans took it as an affront against them. I was just so excited about my first goal that I didn't think about it at all and simply ran to the corner to celebrate. It would have been silly to run the whole pitch to celebrate in front of the south stand too (laughs)."
BVB.de: Your first goal in black and yellow, which actually counted, then came two weeks later during the 3-0 home victory against Wolfsburg – in front of the south stand incidentally. How did that feel?
Hazard: "It was a crazy feeling! I had to wait a long time for my first goal – the game was in November, after all. What's more, it was an important goal to break the deadlock in the game, shortly after the break, after we had been relatively poor in the first half. The game was certainly one of my best performances in the first half of the season."
BVB.de: If we take a look at the first half of the season as a whole, your stats in the Bundesliga look very good – four goals and seven assists. Nevertheless, it took a while before you really got going. Why was that?
Hazard: "It is normal for it to take some time when you come into a completely new environment. I played okay at the start, I think. What was missing was the first goal. The goal against Wolfsburg broke the curse, then everything was much easier. And then I quickly shifted into a higher gear."
BVB.de: Exactly, that was soon followed by your next personal success in the away game in Berlin. That was where you unveiled a special goal celebration, which we have seen a few more times since the Hertha game. What's behind it?
Hazard: "Dan-Axel Zagadou and I came up with it. It’s a gesture made by the French rapper, Niska. In Mainz, Jadon Sancho then also celebrated that way."
BVB.de: While you were playing in Mönchengladbach, you lived with your family in the Netherlands. Now you have all moved to Dortmund. Have your wife and children settled in now?
Hazard: "My family needed some time too. A new language, new people – my children had to leave their friends in Holland. The first month was a bit difficult. In Dortmund, they now go to the kindergarten that Axel Witsel's children attend too. So they have a few people they know already, and they are feeling more comfortable every day."
BVB.de: Do you go out in the city sometimes too?
Hazard: "Of course! We go to the Phoenix-See sometimes. We have been to the Dortmund Zoo and recently went to the Christmas market in the city."
BVB.de: You already knew Axel Witsel from the national team. You get on very well. Are there any other good friends in the team, with whom you get on particularly well?
Hazard: "We all get on very well. The atmosphere in the team is always relaxed. I'm quite close with the French-speaking players, like Axel, Dan or Rapha, thanks to the language. I am with them a lot."
BVB.de: Julian Brandt once said that Raphael Guerreiro was the funniest player in the team. Can you confirm that?
Hazard: "Yes, Rapha is really funny! In the dressing room, at training – he comes up with one line after another. The whole team loves him for it. Off the pitch he is sort of like our mascot. A big kid in the most positive sense of the word."
BVB.de: What are your goals for the new year, in which the European Championship is taking place, among other things?
Hazard: "The achievements with Dortmund are the top priority. That's what I'm concentrating on. If I don’t deliver here, logically my chances of playing in the Euros will also decrease. Staying healthy is important too, of course. Then we will see what happens later, at the tournament."
BVB.de: And your targets with BVB?
Hazard: "We defined the targets before the start of the season and also said what we want to achieve. We can still achieve them – I am convinced of that. But, as I said, to do so, we need to be more consistent, and can’t give away as many points as in the first half of the season. But one thing is clear: we are still in it!"