Eden Hazard was supposed to be the Galactico to usher Real Madrid into a new era, but instead he’s fading into insignificance. The Hazard who marvelled at the 2018 World Cup or in the blue of Chelsea has been nowhere to be seen.
He’s struggled with injury and bad luck, but has been unable to step up to the plate in the time he’s spent on the pitch. Now 30, his window of opportunity to make a success of his time at the Santiago Bernabeu, his dream move, is narrowing.
Currently injured, it looks like he’s chosen to opt for conservative treatment and avoid surgery to get back on the pitch as soon as possible. It’s the eleventh such injury he’s suffered since joining Madrid, with the Belgian being unable to show anything of what Los Blancos paid €100m to Chelsea for.
Hazard has scored four goals and provided seven assists, and there’s a resignation emanating from Valdebebas that not much more will be seen from the playmaker this season. This sporting decline has been matched in the marketplace, with Transfermarkt identifying his value as having fallen to €40m, the lowest since 2013, when he’d just joined Chelsea from Lille.
There’s two principal schools of thought as to why he’s suffered such a run of injuries, aside from sheer bad luck. One is that he spent his senior career riding tough challenges in the quick and physical Premier League. The other is a questionable work ethic and a lack of attention to the physical aspect of the game.
“I think people in love with football in this country should fall in love with Eden Hazard,” Jose Mourinho said back in January 2015 after Chelsea lost 5-3 to a Tottenham Hotspur team that met his side and Hazard with real physicality. “And I think that the way in which, game after game, he is being punished by opponents without being protected by the referee may leave us without Hazard one day.”
For Samuel Eto’o, the former Barcelona forward, the manner in which Hazard has looked after himself has been the reason for his body breaking down as he enters his late 20s. He back in 2014 compared him to Ronaldinho, who didn’t look after his fitness like he should have and suffered a steep late-career decline.
For Kristof Sas, the Belgian national team’s doctor, Hazard is simply stuck in a vicious cycle. “Injuries at this stage of the season aren’t worrisome for the European Championship, it’s even a rest period,” he said in February. “But with Eden it’s different. It’s another relapse, a chronic situation that always goes wrong. First the ankle, then the muscle injuries. It’s all very unpleasant. Eden is in a vicious circle and it’s not easy to get out of it.”
Madrid are tipped to be active this summer, with the club linked to attacking talents including Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. If you’d like to take a look at the odds on who they’ll target, bookmaker-ratings.com is a good place to go.
Mbappe, their number one target, would particularly be a direct threat to Hazard’s status as the team’s galactico. But the sad truth is that he’s been unable to live up to the billing either way. Football fans who remember Hazard at his best will hope he can turn it around, but anyone who’s followed his time so far in the Spanish capital will be sceptical.