Eden Hazard announced his intention to become the best player in the world upon his arrival at Real Madrid, but instead he’s slipped into obscurity amid fitness and form issues in Spain.
The Belgium international, now 30, already appears to have been forgotten about – which for a player of his undoubted quality is absolutely criminal.
Hazard was at an elite level at Chelsea, winning dozens of personal and team accolades.
He twice won the Premier League in his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge, as well as two Europa Leagues, two FA Cups and the League Cup.
The forward was also named the PFA Player of the Year in 2014/15, twice nominated for the Ballon d’Or and was Chelsea’s Player of the Year on four occasions.
He rarely missed a game for the Blues over those seven seasons, wracking up 352 appearances and scoring 110 goals.
That works out to just over 50 games per season as well as an average of 16 goals.
Hazard was often linked with a move to Los Blancos and spoke about his dream to play there, while outlining his desire to be the world’s best.
The Belgian clearly thought moving to Madrid would help him achieve that and it finally happened in 2019 in a deal reportedly worth up to £143million.
Madrid are yet to see much of a return from their investment, though.
But now would be the opportunity for Hazard to give the Madrid faithful something to shout about, as he gears up for an emotional Champions League semi-final first-leg showdown with his former side – which is live on talkSPORT.
From a durable player at the west London club, he has turned into someone who struggles with injuries more than he plays.
Hazard has been sidelined with 10 different injuries since joining the Real Madrid, including a fractured foot that saw him miss 17 matches from December to January last year.
He has played just 37 times for Madrid and scored a meagre four goals in just short of two years at the Bernabeu.
Speaking back in November 2020, former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino believed Hazard should be considered one of the all-time greats of the game, but a lack of focus means he may never reach his potential.
“Eden Hazard is an incredibly gifted player, but he’s had a really difficult time since he went to Real Madrid for that huge fee,” Cascarino said on the Weekend Sports Breakfast.
“Injuries and obviously the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped him, it’s affected his career, but what a talent he can be for Belgium.
“He went to Real Madrid to become the best player in the world, he even mentioned that, he talked about that when he joined Madrid, but what a difficult time he’s had since he’s joined. It’s been really hard on him. He’s found it tough.
Eden Hazard’s stats this season
Minutes played: 629
Scored every 204 minutes
Assisted every 408 minutes
*Info from FootyStats.org
“Obviously injuries have played a huge part in it, he went to Real Madrid and apparently was a tad overweight, he lost his confidence, but he seems to recovered his fitness of late.
“Belgium miss him. I can remember his performance against Brazil in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup, it was him and Neymar both out on the right and Hazard outplayed Neymar all night. He was just superb.
“I really miss seeing Hazard being Hazard, because he is a great player when he’s on.
“He has done this a couple of times, he has switched off in his career and Chelsea fans will tell you. There were a couple of times where he just switched off at Chelsea.
“But when he switches on he’s up there with the best players who have ever played the game. We just haven’t seen Hazard at a best for a long time.”
Eden Hazard’s career is by no means over. The general rule of thumb used to be that once a player reached 30 it would only be downhill from there.
Chelsea famously had a policy of only handing one year contracts to players in their 30s, making no exceptions for legends like John Terry and Frank Lampard.
But that just isn’t the case anymore. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are still at the top of their game despite being 33 and 36 respectively.
Robert Lewandowski has taken his game to a whole new level with Bayern Munich despite being 32.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been one of the best players in Serie A this season with AC Milan despite being 39 – deservedly earning a new one-year deal at the San Siro in the process.
There’s still plenty of time for Hazard to recapture that form that made him one of the most sought-after players in world football.
Speaking ahead of the European showdown, manager Zinedine Zidane heaped praise on the Belgian – and insists he will now ‘push on’ amid a difficult period in his career.
“I don’t see Eden having any doubts. He looked very good on the field the other day,” Zidane told reporters.
“That was the most important, not feeling anything from his old problems. Now he is good, and now to push on. We are happy to have him with us, he will bring a lot to the team.”
It would be a travesty if we didn’t see Hazard strutting his stuff on the world’s highest stage again – and haunting his former side would be the perfect catalyst to do so.