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On the face of it, the announcement was not particularly noteworthy. Last week, Real Madrid confirmed that Eden Hazard had suffered a muscular injury and would face up to a month on the sidelines. Injuries are part and parcel of being a soccer player, and there is not a player on the planet who has not been forced to sit out from time to time due to fitness concerns.
However, this has become an all-too-regular occurrence for Hazard. That is not to blame the Belgium international. No soccer player enjoys being injured and such setbacks are rarely the fault of the injured party. But unfortunately for both him and Madrid, this has been the theme of his time at the Santiago Bernabeu to date.
Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said after scans confirmed the problem in Hazard’s right leg:
I can’t say how much time (he’ll be out). He hurt himself in the training session before the game. It’s a muscular injury, it doesn’t have anything to do with the injury he had. It can happen,We hope it isn’t too long, I can’t say how long exactly. He’s annoyed because he was fine. He was happy, and then he felt something. These things can happen. He isn’t happy, but he knows it isn’t much. We have to be calm with him.
It is hard not to feel sorry for Hazard. Thibaut Courtois spoke about how sharp his team-mate had looked in training before injury struck. Having endured a frustrating debut campaign at Madrid last time out, Hazard was understandably keen to make his mark early on this season. Now the forward faces yet more time on the treatment table, with his current ailment potentially ruling him out of the Clasico clash with Barcelona on October 25. More than a year on from his arrival in the Spanish capital, Hazard’s Madrid career is yet to get going.
Hazard first came to prominence after his outstanding contributions to Lille’s third-place finish in Ligue 1 in 2011/12. The forward was just a youngster back then, but he took the French top flight by storm and scored 20 goals in 38 appearances. He was linked with a string of major European clubs that summer and eventually opted to join Chelsea after their Champions League triumph ensured they would be competing in the competition again the following year.
Hazard took time to settle at Stamford Bridge, but by the time of his third season at the club, he was the main man. Chelsea won the Premier League title in that 2014/15 campaign, with Jose Mourinho lifting the trophy for the third time following his prior successes with the Blues in 2004/05 and 2005/06. Hazard scored 14 goals and provided nine assists, and was deservedly rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year Award.
He arguably should have also been given the prize again in 2016/17, when he notched 16 goals and set up another five for Antonio Conte’s title-winners. However, on an individual basis Hazard’s best season as a Chelsea player was arguably his last. Maurizio Sarri struggled to win over the club’s fans as Conte’s successor but Hazard was absolutely outstanding despite the turmoil, scoring 16 goals and providing 15 assists in the Premier League. He also helped Chelsea win the Europa League, delivering a man-of-the-match performance against Arsenal in the final.
That was his final act as a Chelsea player. The supporters may have been sad to see him go, but they accepted that Hazard dreamed of playing for Real Madrid and they did not begrudge him his transfer, particularly as it boosted the coffers to the tune of £89 million. Madrid fans were happy to see him arrive too. They had not immediately signed a high-profile replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Juventus a year earlier, and although Hazard was never going to hit the heights of the Portuguese superstar, he did at least bring proven top-level quality to the team’s attack.
Unfortunately, though, Hazard has not yet shown his true class in a Madrid shirt. He was out of shape when he arrived at the club last summer and then sustained a fractured ankle in a Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain in November. He had a similar injury soon after making his return to action in the spring and ended his first season at the club with just 22 starts to his name in all competitions.
Madrid won the La Liga title last term but Hazard will feel he did not play too big a part in that success. He is yet to feature in the Spanish top flight in 2020/21 due to that muscle injury, which saw him miss Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Levante, a result which made it 10 points from a possible 12 at the start of this season for Zidane’s men. They are likely to make it 13 from 15 too, with BetMGM offering -455 on the defending champions overcoming Cadiz this weekend.
The absence of Hazard will not particularly hurt Madrid for that fixture, but they will hope the 29-year-old is back to his best sooner rather than later. Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior are talented wide men who have progressed quicker than many expected, but the Brazilian duo are 19 and 20 respectively. Their tender age means they will suffer dips in form this season, and Zidane will hope to have Hazard to call upon as his side seeks success across the three fronts of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League.
The Belgian himself will be desperate to make up for a lost time. It is to be hoped that he has lost nothing of his agility, speed, and dynamism during his year of injury troubles, as Hazard would need to significantly adapt his game if he was no longer able to weave in and out of challenges.
For now, though, he will simply be focused on getting fit enough to play again – and every Madrid fan out there will be wishing him the best of luck.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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