On Saturday, Eden Hazard came off the bench against Elche and played the final 15 minutes, a welcome return after a six-week absence. Depressing and familiar news came in Monday: He’s likely out for another six weeks, this time after a strain on the psoas muscle, which controls the lifting of the upper leg. Hazard joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 for an initial fee of $ 124 million. Since then, he has played from start to finish in just four games for the club, all last season.
For at least three years before leaving Chelsea, the feeling was that Hazard needed to move if he really wanted to feel satisfied. Everyone could see his talent, but he had a feeling that he needed to join one of the continental giants if he wanted to win a Champions League title or maybe even join the fight to climb the podium that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are leaving. vacancies slowly.
The problem is that Hazard is not as motivated as most footballers by money or medals. He was happy in London with his family. He didn’t want to leave. That’s not to say he’s lazy, but in a world where so many are driven by an almost sociopathic need to succeed, maybe he was lacking some hunger.
Rafa Benitez, when he was Chelsea manager, was infuriated by Hazard-related reluctance to go back. José Mourinho enjoyed an unstable relationship with the Belgian, who he kept trying to make him try harder. Although there were definitely periods of froideur, Hazard messaged Mourinho with an apology after he was fired. Maurizio Sarri, a coach who demands pressure from his forwards, was the only one who finally gave the green light for him to leave, signing Christian Pulisic as a substitute, although he himself was fired before the change occurred.
And as is often the case with players battling injuries, there is a critical undertone to much of the commentary. Hazard limped off a 2-0 loss to Leicester that turned out to be Mourinho’s last game in charge of Chelsea. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Mourinho said immediately after that match, his tone making his meaning clear. “All I know is that in 10 seconds he made the decision himself. He came out and said right away that he couldn’t do it. Then he tried and immediately withdrew. He made the decision to get out. So it must be a serious injury. “
That was echoed in the comments of Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after this latest setback. “There are things I cannot explain,” he said. “As always, I try to stay positive and hope it’s a small thing. Something is happening. He is a player who was never injured in his career. We are trying to find out what is happening with injured players, there are things that happen in football. We have talked about the preseason, the number of games, and things in the head too, which have a lot to do with it ”.
Zidane is right: the hip injuries in 2015-16 were an aberration, and even that season Hazard ended up playing 25 league games. And his comments about the “head” injuries weren’t specifically directed at Hazard; In this truncated season, many clubs have struggled to keep players in shape. But there is serious danger now that Hazard becomes another Gareth Bale for Zidane, a player he simply cannot trust, a situation made more pressing by the fact that Bale, currently on loan at Tottenham, and Hazard are the highest paid players in the club. Hazard has just four goals in 36 games in all competitions over two snake-bitten seasons.
It’s a sign of how badly the post-Cristiano Ronaldo succession plan has gone that the 36-year-old Portuguese international has been linked to a return to the club, despite his increasingly static performances with Juventus in the Champions League. . As the pandemic hits the soccer club’s finances, Bale and Hazard, who reportedly make $ 900,000 and $ 580,000 a week, represent a major problem for Madrid, but it is not likely to be resolved. re-signing a player with no resale value who is currently totaling $ 165 million a year.
For Hazard, meanwhile, there can only be sympathy. After seven years at Chelsea, this was supposed to be his last push towards greatness. Instead, it has turned into a nightmare. And while skeptics wonder if he’s somehow not really willing to push himself through the pain, perhaps there is another lesson to be learned. Feeling comfortable and being happy with your family where you are may not be so bad.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.