There are growing concerns that Eden Hazard’s dream switch to Real Madrid is in danger of turning into a nightmare. The 31-year-old moved to the Spanish capital in 2019 in a deal worth €150m to Chelsea and £350,000 a week for Hazard’s lucrative contract. However, Los Blancos have by no means seen the best of the Belgian playmaker, who has managed just four goals in 48 appearances across three seasons.
Injuries had been few and far between for Hazard during his seven-year spell with Chelsea, averaging well over 30 league games per season. Perhaps the biggest issue for Hazard was his lack of fitness from day one as a Madrid player. He arrived at Madrid’s pre-season training camp with a glaring lack of fitness and match sharpness. It took him some time to break his duck in Madrid colours, with a goal in early October 2019 against Granada. A month later, he sustained a nasty ankle injury in the Champions League and would miss 16 competitive games.
It’s gone from bad to worse for Hazard at Madrid
After finishing the 2019/20 campaign with only 16 appearances to his name, Hazard needed a big 2020/21 to live up to his price tag. It took him until Halloween to score his first goal of the season against Huesca and followed that up with a Champions League goal the following month against Inter. Crucially, Hazard would end up playing even less this term than in 2019/20. Just 14 La Liga appearances was a poor output for someone who was meant to be spearheading the team’s creativity.
The moment that saw Madrid fans turn against Hazard occurred after the team’s 3-1 aggregate exit to former club Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final. The Belgian was spotted laughing and joking with former teammates Edouard Mendy and Kurt Zouma, which did not go down well with the Spanish press either. Although he publicly apologised, Hazard’s credibility has been called into question ever since. Although Real Madrid would go on to win a Liga and Champions League double in 2021/22, Hazard’s 18 league appearances were goalless, leaving fans once again scratching their heads.
However – Hazard is finally a Champions League winner
One of the main reasons that Hazard chose to leave Stamford Bridge for the Bernabéu was the opportunity to win the Champions League. Despite Hazard being an unused substitute for Madrid in their Champions League final success against Liverpool, the Belgian still received a winner’s medal. In that sense, Hazard’s move to Spain could be considered a personal success already. However, the Belgium international captain will be hungry for more medals providing he is over his injury nightmare.
The football odds are already being priced for the 2022/23 Champions League campaign, which sees 32 giants across the continent go head-to-head once more. A fit and healthy Hazard would certainly do Madrid’s chances no harm whatsoever next term. Carlo Ancelotti’s men proved that it’s not always about being the best team of individuals and that a strong team ethic and defensive backbone can go a long way to win major trophies. Combine that durable spine of the team with the ‘X Factor’ sparkle of Hazard and Real Madrid could be in pole position to achieve an historic league and Champions League double in successive seasons.
There are genuine parallels that can be drawn between Hazard’s Real career and Gareth Bale’s time at the Bernabéu. Like Hazard, Bale arrived in Madrid to tremendous fanfare, with immense expectation on the Welshman’s shoulders. 176 competitive appearances in nine seasons suggests that Bale averaged less than 20 games per season due to a mixture of fitness and injury reasons. His most impressive feat in a white jersey was in the 2018 Champions League final, when his stunning overhead kick helped Madrid to a third successive European trophy.
Admittedly Hazard has not yet scaled anything like those heights as a Madrid player, he is someone who supporters could look back on as a major flop in years to come. The 31-year-old has publicly ruled out leaving Madrid this summer, reinforcing his desperation to show the people of Madrid “what [he] can do”. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is also a public admirer of Hazard’s abilities and has backed him to demonstrate his “quality” in a Blancos jersey in 2022/23 – a big year for Hazard with a World Cup on the horizon.