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Eden Hazard

Started by DavidEU,

25,896 posts in this topic
38 minutes ago, Jason said:

That's one cynical way of looking at it but can you really blame someone for wanting to fulfill their dream - in this case Hazard wanting to play for Real Madrid? 

Who could also predict the future? Who could have predicted that he would suffer two bone injuries from a kick, despite rarely suffering any notable injury while he was here?

No your taking it too far now, I meant in regards to how good he was here, how loved he was, the main man etc. He will never have that in RM. He got his dream move yes, but doesnt mean he will be a big success there.

8 minutes ago, Superblue_1986 said:

Whether he does or not, I think he would have regretted it far more if he hadn't have tried his hand with the move to Madrid.

Probably yes, so far he has produced very little in RM, before he got injured I mean. Lets hope he gets back soon huh.

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8 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

No your taking it too far now, I meant in regards to how good he was here, how loved he was, the main man etc. He will never have that in RM. 

You're right but I doubt Hazard bothers about that much. 

11 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

He got his dream move yes, but doesnt mean he will be a big success there.

Maybe and it's obviously down to him to make his time at Madrid a success but even if it doesn't turn out to be a success, at least he won't retire thinking "what might have been" had we prevented his move or had he not taken the chance to play for them. Must live without regrets, you know. ;)


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1 minute ago, Jason said:

You're right but I doubt Hazard bothers about that much. 

Maybe and it's obviously down to him to make his time at Madrid a success but even if it doesn't turn out to be a success, at least he won't retire thinking "what might have been" had we prevented his move or had he not taken the chance to play for them. Must live without regrets, you know. ;)


Agreed my man

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6 hours ago, Fernando said:

I will still take him back in the summer if real Madrid want to sell him back to us. 

knowing those spanish cunts, if it were to happen they would try to include Kante and Alonso in the deal

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3 hours ago, Strike said:

Won't happen but Hazard and Ziyech together would be magic

Real Madrid at times cut their loses fast. 

Let's see if they decide to do that this summer. I think the club should at least inquire if they want to sell back. 🙂

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1 minute ago, Jason said:

No thanks. The Hazard ship has sailed. It's time we move past Hazard and have younger, quality players to take us forward. 

Agreed, we had the best years of his career. He isn't going to get any better. Might hit some purple patches of form and his career will probably last longer playing in Spain than it would in the Premier League.

The key now is to replace Hazard properly in the summer. Ziyech has the potential to be a great buy, and Pulisic and CHO have great potential to be big players in the long term for us but we do need that game changer, the last couple of months have proven that. Doesn't necessarily need to be a wide player either, a talisman striker could be just as good if not better, with the number of attacking midfielders we already have within the squad.

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1 hour ago, Superblue_1986 said:

Agreed, we had the best years of his career. He isn't going to get any better. Might hit some purple patches of form and his career will probably last longer playing in Spain than it would in the Premier League.

The key now is to replace Hazard properly in the summer. Ziyech has the potential to be a great buy, and Pulisic and CHO have great potential to be big players in the long term for us but we do need that game changer, the last couple of months have proven that. Doesn't necessarily need to be a wide player either, a talisman striker could be just as good if not better, with the number of attacking midfielders we already have within the squad.

tbh Ziyech and Loftus-Cheek will be that I think plus the likes of Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi will continue to develop. 

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Former Chelsea player reveals season at new club ‘has been rubbish’




There are some players who leave a club and are instantly forgotten, and some who leave a real legacy and a massive hole behind them.

Eden Hazard would be welcomed back at Chelsea in an instant; there is not one fan, coach, or board member who would not bring him back if given the chance.

Chelsea have struggled since he left, they have been without a real game changing player, a player with the ability to score a goal from absolutely nothing, a player to lean on to get them out of trouble when under the cosh. Hazard was that man.

He joined Real Madrid last summer, describing it as his dream move. Naturally, it is the club he supported as a boy.

But things have been far from dreamy during his first season there. He turned up at pre-season over weight, he then suffered injury niggles, and he has really yet to light things up in La Liga.

Hazard has admitted that his first season ‘has been rubbish.’



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Season to adapt? He cost 100m euros and is meant to be one of the best players on the planet. In his best years may I add. What a crock of shite. That excuse might of worked here or somewhere else but at Real Madrid, it is very dangerous saying something like that. Even worse considering how Madrid likely can just go and sign new top top players in the summer if they want to. I mean look how quickly they've thrown Ozil, Di Maria and James Rodriguez aside to get new shiny toys. 

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Shaun Maloney: De Bruyne and Hazard tick so many boxes but are also so humble



“I think the level of player and the things I see in training…” says Belgium assistant coach Shaun Maloney, before pausing for thought. He restarts his answer from another angle. “When you watch these players up close they make you realise… How can I say this?” he says, letting out a sigh which suggests that whichever words he finds to describe what it’s like to train the No 1-ranked national team in the world, they won’t do it justice.

Maloney is a considered talker though as he reflects on 18 months coaching the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.

“I knew these players were elite but it’s not until you work with them that you fully understand how many attributes they have at an elite level,” he says. “It’s not just technically, it’s everything. They tick so many boxes but one of the biggest things is how humble they are. The intensity and dedication in training is something that from the beginning — not that it was a surprise — was so high.

“These boys compete at this level every single week so the consistency they show throughout the year is something I’d never seen close up. We could go through every facet of what makes a player, but they have all of them.”

The 37-year-old is back in Scotland when he speaks to The Athletic on FaceTime but being home has become a rarity as he spends most of his time in Belgium or travelling across Europe to meet players in between training camps. Zoom meetings will have to do for this summer after the European Championships were postponed until next year.

It should have been doubly cruel for someone who played 47 times for Scotland, a nation that hasn’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998, but there is no hint of frustration despite the cyclical calendar of international football meaning everything had been geared towards June for the past two years.

“We’re in the midst of something that is far bigger than any sporting event,” he says, almost too simply put.

Maloney retired three years ago after leaving Hull City. It is his first senior coaching job after Brendan Rodgers brought him to Celtic in 2017, where he spent a year coaching players on the fringes of the first-team squad.

He had an impressive career, which included two spells at Celtic, a season at Aston Villa and a four-year stint at Wigan under Roberto Martinez, the man he coaches alongside with Belgium. Maloney has played in the Champions League and assisted an FA Cup-winning final goal for Wigan against Manchester City, so he is well-versed in pressure and big-name players. He has never played alongside world-class players though and, even for the most experienced of coaches, replacing Thierry Henry as the coach to instruct Vincent Kompany could be a daunting prospect.

Maloney Henry

“I was fortunate when I joined that Thierry was still there and stayed for six weeks,” says Maloney, when asked if he had to gain the players’ trust. “I’m quite quiet by nature so that allowed me to come in and find my feet at the start. One of the things I’ve found with every single player in the squad is that they’re very humble. They’re open to talking and discussing anything in the game. That makes me completely at ease to speak to the players. One thing I notice during the tactical meetings is that if anyone has a question then it is always open for them to ask and Roberto will discuss it.

“People talk about different philosophies in the game but there are also different ways to coach. In the last couple of years I’ve definitely realised that telling someone what to do isn’t the right way to go. It has to be a collaboration and you need to have that connection with the player as otherwise it won’t have an effect. I’ve had different types of coaching and that’s the one that worked for me and the one I’ll use throughout my coaching career.”

Maloney suffered chronic injury problems during his second spell at Celtic where he suffered an ACL injury and a serious ankle ligament injury. It was during this fragmented period that he secured his UEFA B Licence and then his UEFA A Licence, but it “didn’t trigger anything inside him”. It was only when he joined Wigan at the age of 28 that his mind really started to focus on the “concepts” he continuously refers to when describing how they train.

“Wigan exposed me to a different style and different understanding of football,” he says. “That curiosity grew until the age of 34 at Hull when I was sure I wanted to become a coach. We had a lot of British players and it was a different idea in terms of training and style of play so it wasn’t something any of us had been accustomed to.

“I played against European teams and national teams where I felt I was in a team that had more effort on the pitch but it felt like we were playing a different game. I didn’t quite understand why that was but there was always an idea that other countries were technically and tactically better than us. That was the general rule. We had a great mentality, great attitude, massive heart in games but there was another side of it. I started to understand that the tactical side of things is arguably more important.”

Scotland are kings of the intangibles and Maloney broke into Martin O’Neill’s Celtic side in 2001, which featured many robust players such as John Hartson and Chris Sutton. He impressed but he often played with a fluency and intricacy which belied his nationality.

Similar to team-mates Lubo Moravcik and Eyal Berkovic, both of whom were similar in style and stature, he had to adapt his game to fit into a league which was very physical. Martinez’s style of football was a natural home for him.

“Roberto’s style of play stuck with me and there was always the curiosity to delve deeper into that, which is the reason we work together,” he says. “As a young coach Brendan was very good to me and both he and Roberto have a connection with players that stands out. I don’t know if you can teach it or not but it’s a special attribute.

“I used to speak to Roberto a lot (at Wigan) and ask him a lot of questions. When I went down to Wigan after a long period of injuries with Celtic I needed a lot of time to recondition so I spent a lot of time with the head of fitness Richard Evans, who is still with Roberto, so I got very close with him. When he went to Everton there were certain messages (to each other) about tactics, games we had watched and games at the World Cup. There was no real idea that come September 2018 he’d ask me to join his staff.”

But the call came and he helps preside over one of the richest talent pools in world football. With that comes demands and it is seen in the way Maloney and Martinez are constantly bouncing ideas off one another. In that, and in so much more, he finds great fulfilment in the role.

Maloney Martinez

“It’s constant. It’s your life but I’m not unhappy with that. I absolutely love watching games, I love working with players on the pitch and seeing players improve or come into the squad. Working on or talking about certain things with a player and then seeing them produce gives you real joy.

“Some of the things you see Eden, Kevin, Dries (Mertens) do in training is incredible. I’ve read a lot recently on Kevin. It’s difficult for me to say any more about him. He’s the complete player. He has everything tactically, technically and, physically, he’s an absolute monster in his speed and agility. What maybe isn’t mentioned as much is his awareness and vision is the work for the team out of possession as that is the same level. He is an incredible team player.

“But there are other things within the game you notice that don’t get spoken about as much. You could literally go right through the squad. (Axel) Witsel’s tactical intelligence in terms of his positioning and how good he is at simple, forward passing. That should never be underrated. Thomas Vermaelen’s performances over the last six to twelve months have been incredible. Our defensive players are at such an elite level so I’m very fortunate to work with these players. That’s part of the reason why I’m so motivated  and I spend so much time travelling to see these players and preparing these ideas with Roberto because the level of these players demands it.

“Roberto wanted the players to get their badges so they could use their experience and intelligence after they retire so he asked most of them to take their UEFA A & B badges, and most have. These players are extremely tactically aware so any messages you have are picked up so quickly. They’re always inquisitive and ask why we’re using a certain concept and asking questions about the opponents.

“It’s maybe an attribute that isn’t really spoken about and it’s something that I notice throughout our group. It’s to do with how they have been brought up through their academies and the clubs they play as they are used to a certain level of tactical information. It’s a different culture to what I was used to.”

In the 43 games since taking over the national team in August 2016, Martinez has lost just three and led Belgium to third at the 2018 World Cup, their best-ever finish.

While there is a school of thought that international management suits pragmatists rather than idealists — which Martinez has been accused of during his time at Wigan at Everton due to perceived defensive frailties — because of the limited time coaches have to work with players, Maloney disagrees and points to the success they have had in playing the same system (variations of 3-4-2-1) since Martinez took over.

“If you watch Belgium play the style of play is exactly what Roberto believes in,” he says. “It has followed him around his career and I don’t think that will ever change. I came in after Roberto had been there for two years so that was two years of working on the style of play but every camp you still work on the principles. Roberto’s philosophy has been honed over the years though.

“In our team you have to have a lot of the ball but the foundation of it is the defensive structure and there are moments you have to suffer without the ball. I don’t think attack and defence are separate discussions. I have been there for nearly two years and I never get the feeling we concentrate on one aspect more than the other. The training is specific for the next opponent. It’s difficult to have an effect on every single point you want to have. It’s trying to prioritise certain tactical ideas and what the issues are for the next game.

“When they come into camp we use all the tools possible. We have a big department of analysts now and can show certain video clips or work with them in smaller groups. We’ve now started using iPads on the pitch but for some players that is not the best way to work so you need to find out which way is best to affect certain players. There is always a way though and you have enough time to get these ideas across. We just need to be as efficient as we can.”

Will the golden generation win silverware next year in what is likely to be their final or penultimate tournament together? It is the final question to be answered by a squad that will enter as one of the favourites. Their world No 1 tag will make sure of it.

“It’s a big thing for the country and the squad. To be ranked No 1 in the world for the last year feels like a big tag for us and, approaching the Euros, it was something we wanted to keep. It has to be the same motivating factor for the next 12 months.

“I don’t really get the sense that winning something is a generational thing as we have had a steady stream of new players come into the squad. It was evident in the game in St Petersburg that when there is a really important match (pivotal in them topping the Euro 2o20 qualification group; they won 4-1) the mindset was ruthless. They understand they have the talent to achieve something great at the Euros.”

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Hazard’s second chance




“I’m not a galactico, not yet,” Eden Hazard said. “I hope I will be one day. Despite everything I’ve done in the past, it will be like beginning from zero.”

Hazard was speaking to the 50,000 Real Madrid fans who had filed into Santiago Bernabeu on a scorching hot June lunchtime to welcome their team’s big headline summer signing.

No new arrival had drawn more supporters to the stadium for an unveiling since Cristiano Ronaldo a decade earlier, and the €100 million transfer from Chelsea was also pointedly being given the No 7 shirt once worn by the now-departed Portuguese. After a very poor 2018-19 season without Ronaldo, Madrid president Florentino Perez and his allies were selling the idea that Hazard was the big star who could return the team to glory.

That message met a receptive mood around the Bernabeu. Everyone knew that returning coach Zinedine Zidane had long wanted to bring Hazard to Madrid, and now it was finally happening when the Belgian was at the peak of his powers aged 28. A player who had led Chelsea to two Premier League titles and his country to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup was expected to recharge an attack lacking a leader since Ronaldo left.

Among those who welcomed the transfer was Rafael Martin Vazquez, who won 15 trophies in two spells with Madrid in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Hazard had shown he was a top-level player during his years at Chelsea,” Martin Vazquez tells The Athletic. “When he arrived, Madrid expected he would bring a lot to the team and be decisive for them. He was at the top of his career. They thought of him as the team’s new ‘franchise player’.”

It has not exactly worked out that way. Hazard has started just 14 games and scored just one goal for his new team. Three different injury absences have been big setbacks, while there have also been concerns about whether he understood all that was involved in moving to Real Madrid.

The enforced break due to the coronavirus has now offered him a second chance to make a first impression. Hazard is likely to start Madrid’s first La Liga game back at home to Eibar on June 14, a year and a day after his big Bernabeu presentation.

Whether he has learned enough over the 12 months since to prove worthy of that galactico status over the last 11 games of the season remains to be seen.

The day after his unveiling at the Bernabeu, Hazard went on holiday with his family. The next big headline he made claimed he had arrived back 7kg overweight for pre-season training. Telling interviewers who questioned his professionalism that “when I’m on holidays, I’m on holidays” did not make a great impression either.

Those watching closely and wondering if Hazard knew what he was getting into included La Liga TV pundit Terry Gibson.

“Hazard himself has admitted that at the start of the season he was not in great shape,” Gibson tells The Athletic. “That sort of baffled me a bit. You are moving to one of the biggest clubs in the world, if not the biggest. A dream transfer. And yet you enjoyed the summer a little bit too much. Understandable on one hand, but you surely would like to create that really good impression. He was the superstar signing. A lot was expected of him.”

Those who know Hazard also say that he had looked nervous during his first public appearances with Madrid. The usually carefree character was overwhelmed a little at the size of his new club, especially by the media attention on every little detail of his personal life, just as his wife was preparing to give birth to their fourth child. Much more gossip and information leaked out of the Valdebebas training facility near Madrid’s airport than at Chelsea’s leafy set-up in Cobham.


Pre-season also came as a shock, according to sources close to the player, even after working under hard taskmasters Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Looking to shake up a group of ageing players who had sleep-walked through 2018-19, Zidane had hired former France fitness coach Gregory Dupont to get them into better shape. Hazard knew Dupont from a previous spell together at Ligue 1 side Lille, when both were starting, but at this stage of his career, he found all the physical work more difficult.

Hazard looked sluggish through Madrid’s warm-up games, especially the embarrassing 7-3 defeat against Atletico Madrid in New Jersey. Zidane remained very supportive publicly, saying he was sure he would be fine for the start of the competitive campaign, only for the team’s new big star to injure a thigh muscle in training on the eve of La Liga’s opening day.

The minor problem only kept him out a few weeks, but Hazard was already playing catch-up. His first competitive start for Madrid was another shock to the system, a 3-0 Champions League group defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain in mid-September.

As he got closer to match fitness, he scored a first La Liga goal in a 4-2 win over Granada in October. By November, he was full of running and zip, helping to win two penalties for Real at Eibar. The most striking moment was a 50-yard run down the left wing past three defenders, which ended with an attempted rabona cross. His fitness and confidence seemed to be back, but just two games later disaster struck again. In the return against PSG at the Bernabeu, his international team-mate Thomas Meunier inadvertently stepped right on the spot in his ankle where he had a metal plate inserted in 2017.

It was decided that the problem could be fixed with rest and rehab, but it was mid-February before Hazard played again. He looked good on his return against Celta Vigo, winning a crucial penalty with a sharp sprint into the opposition penalty area. Just a week later, he was limping off yet again after what seemed an innocuous collision with Levante’s Jorge Miramon. This time, there was confirmation that the bone was cracked and he would need an operation.

While misfortune played a part in this run of issues, those close to the player admit that everything to do with the move was more hassle than he expected and that an accumulation of little things caused stress, which can lead to injuries.

Whatever that is the case or not, he has only completed 90 minutes on five occasions for his new club. Luis Milla, a La Liga winner with Real and Barcelona, says Hazard’s skill set means he will feel the effects of this irregular playing schedule more than most players.

“Hazard is a player who needs to be playing regularly,” Milla tells The Athletic. “He had that injury on arrival, had to stop and has never really got going since. We are still all waiting to see his performances when La Liga returns. He has lots of quality, but he needs a run of games to reach his top level. Whenever it looked like he was feeling better, he had to stop again. All Madridismo is still waiting to see in what condition he returns.”

Hazard’s fitness issues have hampered his ability to perform for Madrid, but what about his performances when he has been able to get on to the pitch? Are there tactical factors to match the physical problems?

Gibson says that, even in the moments when he did make an impression on the pitch last autumn, he was not coming close to hitting his top Chelsea form.

“He has not hit the heights of form he showed at Chelsea,” he says. “There was room for improvement in autumn. It was disappointing. He has not influenced games for Real Madrid the way he used to in the Premier League.”

An initial look at the numbers certainly suggests that his performances have dropped off dramatically. During Hazard’s last season at Chelsea, he hit double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League. So far at Madrid, apart from penalties won, his only direct contributions to goals in 1,124 minutes across La Liga and the Champions League were against Granada in October.

That is not the whole story though. As the table below shows, Hazard has undershot his expected goals (xG) — he’s scoring fewer goals than you’d expect given the positions he’s getting himself in. Hazard’s underlying xG isn’t too far away from where he was at last season with Chelsea, which is somewhat reassuring given he’s not played more than four games in a row so far this season. With minutes, he might find his rhythm in front of goal.


Hazard also notched a career-equalling 15 assists at Chelsea last season (joint with 2011-12 at Lille). He has not hit those heights this season, but his underlying expected assists (xA) isn’t too far away from last season at Chelsea.


Part of the reason for these dips in underlining numbers in the first case might be due to a lack of familiarity for Hazard from his new surroundings from a tactical point of view. At Chelsea under Sarri, Hazard played as part of a 4-3-3 in every single game. This season under Zidane, Hazard has featured in a 4-3-3 11 times, but also in a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-1-2. The lack of consistent game time and formation will no doubt have had an impact.

Finally, there’s how Hazard has been positioned within Real’s team. In the graphic below from Stats Perform, we can see how Hazard’s touches per 90 minutes in the different areas of the field have changed between Chelsea last season and Real this season.


Hazard has seen a huge drop in touches just outside of the opposition penalty area (the darkest red area), seeing the ball 10 times fewer per 90 minutes than he did at Chelsea last season. Additionally, he’s seeing the ball more in his own half compared to last season, seeing an almost 50 per cent increase in touches. At least partly, this appears to be down to Zidane requiring more tactical discipline and work rate from his attacking players, with a new focus at Madrid in 2019-20 on everybody pulling their weight on and off the ball.

“He has been restricted in his positional play at Real Madrid,” Gibson says. “This happens. At Chelsea, when you are the biggest star in the team, the best attacking player, you get a licence to roam. At Madrid, I wouldn’t say he has been stifled, but he has been disciplined in where he plays. I don’t think that is the way to get the best out of Hazard. He is a player you want facing the goal.”

Those close to Hazard say he has accepted this requirement for hard work from someone he once idolised as a kid, more so than when previous club managers Mourinho and Conte tried similar tactics. However, this is keeping him away from the areas where he can do the most damage. Also, it was in tracking back against Levante last February, when his physical condition was not 100 per cent, that his ankle gave up and he required the operation.

Milla says that it is normal that Hazard does not have the same freedom to play where he wants at a team like Madrid. “There are many great players at Madrid and you always have to share the main stage,” he says. “Maybe he is not feeling as important as at Chelsea. But that is a question of adaptation. He has to understand his role in the team and at the club. It is still his first year and it has been such a strange season for him. He has needed time. In the future, Madrid will demand more.”

Overall for Madrid, Hazard has been seeing less of the ball and less of it in the areas where he’s effective. However, the standout stat of one goal in 15 games is a bit misleading. While his underlying figures for getting chances in front of goal and creating for others do not look as healthy as last season, they are not far off. What he needs is an extended run of starts at full fitness, then he can find a role in the team where he is comfortable. He could yet find the form he showed at Chelsea.

When the latest ankle break came in February, all involved knew the problem needed to be fixed properly, regardless of whether he was going to be able to play for Madrid again in 2019-20.

Hazard’s camp considered various options and consulted with Belgium national team physio Lieven Maesschalck but decided against returning to the London-based surgeon who had performed the first operation on his ankle in June 2017. It was felt that Hazard’s tendency to spin and turn on his ankle, pivoting more like a basketballer than a footballer, had been a contributory factor in the recurring problem. So they chose to visit the Texas-based Eugene Curry due to his experience in handling players from the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The procedure was carried out in the US on March 5.

The idea at the time was for Hazard to return with Belgium at this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic meant he was preparing to come back for Madrid, but the timetable was more or less the same. The lockdown added a complication: a procedure to have 30 stitches removed from his ankle had to take place at his home in Madrid, but it went off without any problems.

Another hitch was the physio who was visiting his house to help with his recovery programme going into self-isolation due to a possibility of coronavirus contagion. That turned out to be a false alarm, but it meant he had to do some rehab work over Zoom, which again required Hazard to show new diligence in following the exact exercises required to return the ankle to full working order.

It all went to plan, however, and those around the player say that Hazard has shown seriousness and maturity in getting back as quickly as possible. He has been a lot more careful with his diet and preparation during his time at home with the family, enjoying time with his wife and children. That has left him mentally refreshed and physically much sharper than before. The only slight slip was Hazard being fined by his club for interviewing with Belgian TV without telling Madrid’s press team first.

There is also a feeling that Hazard now accepts the extent of the challenge he faces at the Bernabeu. So far in his club career, he has never had to push himself to the limit. He has enjoyed his football and his life without feeling the need to eke every little bit out of his talent. Even winning the Premier League at Chelsea came relatively easily. To succeed at Madrid, a more singular focus is required and Zidane has been talking to him a lot during the enforced break to make sure this message gets across.

Those around him bring up his experience with Belgium at the 2018 World Cup, when Hazard’s intense brilliance drove his country through to an unlucky semi-final defeat. Also in Russia that summer was Madrid’s fitness coach, who had prepared winners France to physically wear down their opponents. Dupont’s approach is now similar for La Liga’s accelerated schedule of 11 games in six weeks, a mini-competition that Hazard feels he is now ready for, physically and mentally.

Tactically, Hazard also feels comfortable with Zidane. The former galactico is not one for issuing detailed instructions to his big-name players, but he does offer nuggets of well-timed advice, which are welcomed. Hazard even sees a hidden benefit now in being made to press and work hard off the ball, as these extra sprints should help him return to top shape more quickly. He still feels that Zidane values him, so wants to repay that faith.

Hazard has been quite fortunate that Zidane and president Perez have made big personal bets on him. Supporters and pundits at the Bernabeu have been sympathetic about his situation and shown patience not always offered to other big names with a similarly poor goal and injury record.

“The adaptation process at a team like Real Madrid is not easy,” Martin Vazquez says. “Many other top players have found it difficult to adapt. I expect he will be important for the team and make that difference over the last 11 games.”

The hope for many at Madrid is that Hazard has been through a learning experience. Circumstances have worked against him at times, but they could be back in his favour. Those close to him say he now realises what it takes to meet the sky-high expectations at Madrid. He is ready to “explode’ over the next few months, they believe.

A year on from his presentation as the symbol of new Madrid team, Hazard is still “not a galactico, not yet”. But he now has another chance to “begin from zero”.


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