Hazard has something to prove, perhaps for more than any other player at Chelsea this season. When he won that award on that balmy May night in 2015, it was just after inspiring the Stamford Bridge club to the Premier League title after a glittering campaign that saw 19 goals, nine assists, and a season of coruscating displays which marked him out as a player to be regarded with the same respect as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
And then last season arrived. Hazard’s form slumped, he could not shake off a niggling hip and groin problem, his relationship with manager Jose Mourinho deteriorated, and Chelsea’s title defence went down the pan.
As he sweated out the toughest of pre-seasons in the Californian heat under new manager Antonio Conte on Wednesday, with the students of UCLA strolling by, Hazard left no doubts about his determination to get things back on track again.
The Belgium skipper said: “I want to be the best, like I was two years ago. Do I want to win that award again? Yes.
“Last season was difficult because I was tired. It is easy to say that now. But even when I am not at the maximum level I want to play well.
“I was injured, not a big injury, but it is not easy to play with a small problem in England because the game is very hard. But I played a very bad season.”
There was speculation at the end of it that it might be time for Hazard to move on, with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid both watching eagerly. But unlike during the previous summer, the big offers did not come, and the 25-year-old then pledged he would not leave Chelsea.
“After a season like that I wanted to stay at Chelsea because I didn’t want to finish like that,” said Hazard.
“When I was in France at Lille, I finished my last game with them with a hat-trick. That was a good time to leave. If I must leave Chelsea one day, I hope I can finish well here and be a champion again.
“I am ready. The injury has gone. Training has been hard, but we’ve got to be ready.
“The new manager is good. He talks a lot to the players. It is completely different now. We’re almost ready. And we can’t wait for the season to start.”
The European Championships were also a disappointment for a Belgium side which failed to convince and crashed out in the quarter-finals to Wales.
Hazard admitted: “We played well. I had hoped that with that team we could win the tournament. We gave everything but it wasn’t enough.
“But I played well at the Euros. It was good for my confidence. And I needed that, because I want to play at the top level. At the Euros I did.”
As for Chelsea, Hazard cannot put his finger on why a team that won the title two years ago should only finish 10th last year in the worst title defence in recent memory.
“We have tried to understand why,” he said. “We didn’t start the season well because of injuries, and then everything seemed to go against us. It wasn’t a good season. We want to forget it.
“Yes, I feel a responsibility to put it right. We’ve got to show everybody we are Chelsea. We are big players, a big team. We didn’t finish in a good place. Now we want to do better and win the Premier League. We need to do that.”