Hazard's Troubled Real Madrid Stint Ends Quietly
In 2019, the headlines painted a vibrant picture. Eden Hazard, the iconic Chelsea star, was set to transform Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu into the 'Garden of Eden,' mesmerizing fans with his exceptional skills. Yet, in Spain, the story took a different path.
Hazard, who announced his retirement at 32 on Tuesday, struggled to shine in the white jersey. His promising journey was marred by injuries and questions about his dedication. A pivotal moment was the ill-fated tackle by teammate Thomas Meunier during a Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain in November 2019.
His journey at Real Madrid began on the wrong foot. He arrived for his first pre-season five kilograms overweight. Former teammates later revealed his lackluster training habits. Even just before games, he was more focused on Mario Kart in the dressing room than match preparation.
Hazard's playful and optimistic demeanor suggested he believed in eventual success, but Real Madrid demanded immediate results. In the fast-paced world of Spanish football, opportunities don't linger.
After recovering from injuries in the first half of last season, he found himself edged out by the rising star Vinicius. Hazard wished for a more accommodating role on the field, but Real Madrid prioritized winning over individual adjustments.
His initial season provided a chance to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, but injuries and Meunier's tackle cast shadows on his prospects. Injuries became a recurring theme, preventing him from displaying his true potential.
A persistent ankle issue, stemming from an earlier injury at Chelsea, hindered his performance. Even after surgery and the removal of a metal plate, he struggled to regain his former elasticity.
As the World Cup approached, Hazard's return to the football elite remained elusive. He made just two starts in his final season at Real Madrid, falling far short of the club's expectations.
Speculations of a transfer to other clubs surfaced, but his inconsistent appearances led to a fading brand. Ultimately, Karim Benzema became the sought-after signing for Real Madrid, highlighting Hazard's unfulfilled potential.
Comparatively, the meteoric rise of Jude Bellingham emphasized the underachievement of Hazard's tenure. At Chelsea, he had led the team to Europa League success with 21 goals, but at Real Madrid, he never featured in a single Clasico in four years.
Real Madrid fans, despite their initial excitement, grew weary of reminiscing about his Chelsea days through old videos. A social media backlash followed his laughter with Kurt Zouma after Chelsea ousted Real Madrid from the Champions League in 2021.
While Hazard's private struggles were acknowledged, the considerable income he received for limited time on the field became increasingly hard to ignore. Although no one harbors ill feelings towards him, his stint in Spain didn't align with the Garden of Eden dream.
In retrospect, it was a journey from Paradise Lost in his first season to Paradise Never Regained in Madrid.