Eden Hazard’s Predicament at Real Madrid
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With two Premier League titles, nine trophies, and over 20 individual awards, Eden Hazard is a soccer star known around the globe. The Belgian is recognized as one of the best attacking players in the world, whether it is for his creativity or goal-scoring ability. He began his youth career in Belgium before moving to France to play for the Ligue 1 club Lille OSC. After a five-year spell, in 2012, Hazard transferred to the 2012 Champions League winner Chelsea FC and established himself on the European stage. In seven seasons with the Blues, he made 352 appearances and scored 110 goals. After winning the Europa League, in 2019, Hazard moved to Spanish giant Real Madrid FC in the summer transfer window. The club coughed up a large sum for Hazard, offering him a five-year contract worth $100 million with additional fees. The club had always been a dream for Hazard, who stated, “I've always dreamed of Real Madrid. I'm not just saying it today because I've signed here. It’s been that way since I was a kid.” However, two years later, he still hasn’t established himself at the Bernabéu. From being a world-class player to an athlete suffering with injuries, what went wrong for Hazard?
Hazard was unveiled as a Real Madrid player on June 13, 2019 in the Santiago Bernabéu stadium with fans present. He took the number seven shirt, formerly worn by club legend Cristiano Ronaldo. Already having joined one of the best clubs in the world and taking the legendary number of one of the best players to ever grace soccer, Hazard was put under a lot of pressure from the soccer community and from Real Madrid fans. After joining Madrid, he picked up a hamstring injury, which pushed his debut back half a month. The Belgian recorded his first goal and assist in La Liga in a 4-2 win against Granada FC on October 5, 2019. Hazard began to contribute to the team, recording three assists in the next five matches. However, in a Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain, the left winger suffered an ankle injury after a rash challenge, which left him off the pitch for three months.
Hazard missed Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey and Supercopa de España campaigns and returned from injury in a La Liga match against Celta de Vigo. Yet again, six days after his return, Hazard fractured his fibula bone in his calf and was out for three months. With the COVID-19 virus halting soccer until the summer, the Belgian was able to recover from his injury, and in June 2020, he made his way back on the pitch. Upon his return, he recorded assists in his first two matches against SD Eibar and Valencia CF. Real Madrid eventually won La Liga, with Hazard making regular appearances off the bench. Though Hazard fell short of expectations, both of pundits and his own standards, no blame should be given to the Belgian. Devastating injuries have plagued his progress, making it hard for him to adjust to a new league and squad.
Unfortunately, injuries continued to disrupt Hazard from establishing his former creative self. Already seven months into the 2020-2021 season, he has only made 14 appearances. Hazard suffered from a multitude of muscle injuries, starting from September to December to February, and he is currently dealing with another one right now. Real Madrid has suffered greatly on the creative side of the game, with midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić giving their best for the club. Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s manager, has been questioned by interviewers about his thoughts on Hazard’s difficult situation. The Frenchman remained hopeful: “It’s not an easy time for the footballer. I’m sure it’s a matter of time before we see him back playing, and hopefully he won’t pick up another injury. [...] I think it’s a bit of bad luck. It’s not been easy on the player. We have to maintain a positive attitude. He’s a great player. We need him back 100 percent.”
Regardless of which club you support, it’s sad to see a talented player such as Hazard held down by injuries. It is very likely that if the Belgian fails to recover from his injuries, Real Madrid will have no other choice than to transfer him. However, people should realize that Hazard is a world-class player, and he has given full effort when he played this season. His poor form and culmination of injuries are obstacles that all soccer athletes go through, and it’s a matter of how they handle them that dictates whether or not they can go back to peak form. Hopefully, if Hazard stays in full fitness, we can see the magician that we once saw in the Premier League back in his prime.