Hazard warning – Real Madrid’s €100m man can’t waste second chance at positive first impression

Hazard warning – Real Madrid’s €100m man can’t waste second chance at positive first impression



Hazard warning – Real Madrid’s €100m man can’t waste second chance at positive first impression

The Belgian looked set to miss the end of the 2019-20 season when he underwent surgery in February, but he is now fit for the resumption of play
When Eden Hazard suffered a broken ankle in Real Madrid’s loss at Levante in February, it appeared that his season was over.

Some even wondered if he would play for the Blancos again. He had only been at Santiago Bernabeu for seven months, but patience was already wearing thin with the club’s second-most expensive signing ever.

Hazard’s attempts to make a big impact in Madrid had been severely hindered by injuries – he has already missed 21 games for Real, more than he sat out during eight seasons at Chelsea – but there was a feeling that he had not helped himself in that regard.

Indeed, he had made a dreadful first impression on the notoriously demanding Spanish press by turning up for pre-season training last summer five kilograms overweight.

Unflattering comparisons were immediately made with the man he was belatedly replacing on Madrid’s left wing, Cristiano Ronaldo, whose longevity and lack of serious injuries is often attributed to his dedication to physical conditioning.

Hazard may have quickly dropped the excess weight, but his fitness became a constant topic of discussion, particularly as he missed the start of the season with a minor thigh injury.

Even when he did play, he looked sluggish. It took him until October to get off the mark for his new club. That solitary strike in a 4-2 win over Granada remains his only Madrid goal.

Again, injuries played their part.

He was sidelined for 16 matches by a micro fracture in his right ankle and he had only returned to action six days previously when he broke down again, at the tail end of February.

Hazard is renowned for his good humour and positive outlook on life, but he cut a disconsolate figure that night at the Ciutat de Valencia.

It was easy to understand why, of course. The ankle break required surgery, which meant it was even unlikely that he would be fit to represent his country at the European Championships.

The coronavirus outbreak changed everything, though. Less than a month after going under the knife, football across the world was suspended and UEFA promptly postponed the Euros until 2021.

However, nearly three months on, the game is ready to return – and so too is Hazard.

As he himself admitted with his characteristic modesty, he and his family had it far easier than most people during lockdown.

“We do what we can and we play a lot in the garden and the children follow school online,” he explained. “We can’t complain. I think there are many people who are having a worse time.”

Hazard has also been presented with an unexpected and welcome opportunity to salvage a season he himself had previously written off.

“It’s been a year of transition,” he stated in April. “I will be judged on my second season. So, it is up to me to be in good shape next year.”

Now, though, it is up to him to be in good shape for the resumption of La Liga next week – and the early signs are encouraging despite Hazard having openly admitted that his biggest struggle during lockdown was controlling his diet.

“It’s complicated for me,” he told RTBF in April. “I’m trying not to eat a lot. I’m trying not to go into the pantry to eat a lot of buns, but it’s not easy.

“I’m working with the physio online. He can’t come here anymore because he fell ill and has to stay at home.

“We started 10 days ago, but he sends me videos from home. I’m working to strengthen my ankle and I’m doing what I can from home.”

The self-discipline and hard work now appear to have paid off, with Hazard in contention to start for Madrid when they return to action against Eibar on Sunday, June 14.

“Hazard is back and with a lot of energy,” Real and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told El Mundo last week. “The stoppage has enabled him to get fit again. He can help us win the title. He is a key player for us.”

Indeed, Hazard will be absolutely integral to Madrid’s hopes of overhauling defending champions and current league leaders Barcelona during the 11 remaining rounds of the 2019-20 campaign.

Zinedine Zidane’s side coped reasonably well without Hazard during his stint on the sidelines, but that was primarily due to their improved defensive record – they boast the meanest defence in the Primera Division, having conceded just 19 times to date.

However, Madrid have had major problems in attack this season, scoring just 49 goals in La Liga, 14 fewer than Barca. It is telling that defender Sergio Ramos is their second top-scorer, with five.

Even more worryingly, top scorer Karim Benzema had netted just twice in his 11 appearances before play was suspended in March.


Hazard, then, has a colossal role to play, in both creating and taking chances between now and the end of the season. He has been given a second chance to make a positive impression on his first season in Spain.

He cannot afford to waste it.

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