Handed the iconic number seven shirt upon signing for Real Madrid, Eden Hazard was seen as the spiritual successor to Cristiano Ronaldo in the Spanish capital. The Belgium is a different sort of player to the five-times Ballon d’Or winner, but £100m was spent to bring some X factor to Zinedine Zidane’s team in the post-Ronaldo age.
So far, though, Hazard has failed to live up to expectations. The 30-year-old has suffered injury after injury, making just 36 appearances for Real Madrid in all competitions over two seasons. Every time Hazard gets close to finding form and fitness, he picks up another knock or strain. This pattern is well-established by now.
Hazard’s latest setback, suffered the week after returning from a two-month layoff, is predicted to keep him sidelined until mid-April. The Belgian has already missed 23 games for Los Blancos this season representing another write off of a campaign in Spain. Real Madrid’s £100m investment has yet to pay dividends and it’s debatable whether it ever will.
Real Madrid can’t afford to give Hazard more time to prove himself. Even when Hazard has made it on to the pitch, he has faced questions over his physical condition with the player himself admitting he put on a stone in weight on holiday last summer. Real Madrid never had this sort of problem with Ronaldo.
If a buyer can be found, the Spanish giants should cut their losses on a player who has shown little to suggest his fortunes will turn around any time soon. Now 30 years old, Hazard is approaching a career crossroads and Real Madrid might face a difficult decision on whether or not to cash in on the Belgian when he still holds some market value.
Zidane has already adapted his team to operate without Hazard. When fit, the former Chelsea man has played off the left, drifting inside to link up with Karim Benzema. The two attackers are on the same wavelength, offering a tantalising hint of what could be. Recently, though, Zidane has shifted his team into a 3-5-2 with width coming from wing backs.
Benzema has expanded his game to cope without a supply line. The Frenchman is now much more than just a goalscorer for Real Madrid and doesn’t need Hazard alongside him to make an impression in the final third. Benzema’s two-in-one role means Zidane can use his midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to control matches.
It’s possible Hazard would be a good fit for the secondary striker role most recently performed by Marcos Asensio and Vinicius Junior, but it’s a position that requires exceptional mobility and energy and these are things the 30-year-old currently doesn’t possess. So many injuries have robbed Hazard of the acceleration that made him such a devastating force for Chelsea.
Patience isn’t something usually afforded to big money Real Madrid signings. Look at how Luka Jovic, who cost €60m from Eintracht Frankfurt two summers ago, was barely given a chance to prove his worth in the Spanish capital before being sent back to the Bundesliga on loan this January. Martin Odegaard is another case who proves how little time even the most talented players are given to shine at the Santiago Bernabeu.
As one of the best players in the Premier League over a number of years, Real Madrid have afforded Hazard more time than is customary, but there will come a point at which hope passes into desperation.
There’s only one thing worse than splurging £100m on a crock and that’s wasting even more time waiting for him to come good.News Now - Sport News