The timing could not be better, yet the timing could not be worse. Eden Hazard and Real Madrid looked like a match made in heaven over the summer but after any deal to take the Belgian star to the Spanish capital failed to materialise ahead of the latest transfer deadline, the flames have once again been fanned at a time when Los Blancos are, relatively, in crisis.
“Real Madrid is the best club in the world,” Hazard declared following his latest star showing in Chelsea’s victory at Southampton over the weekend. “I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club.”
The ‘come-and-get-me’ plea from the 27-year-old comes at a time when the Londoners are flying in the Premier League and Madrid have gone four consecutive matches without finding the back of the net for the first time since 1985. Hazard’s move to Madrid in the summer looked an attractive one following the sale of record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and now it seems even more of a pull for Florentino Pérez.
It’s easy to shout ‘Benzema OUT!’ or ‘Bale’s injured again!’ when the team is at a low, calling for the world’s best stars to arrive at the Santiago Bernabéu to solve any problems in a flash. The truth is that Madrid, a team very much in transition, needs Hazard.
After Pérez’s first stint in charge of the club, buying ‘Galactico’ after ‘Galactico’, the latest approach has seen Los Blancos target young, hungry Spanish stars. Players such as Marco Asensio, Alvaro Odriozola and Jesus Vallejo. Pérez should be applauded for doing so and the future looks bright. But while the future is crucial, Madrid are in a position where they need top, seasoned players to complement those young stars.
Hazard fits the bill.
So do Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, both touted alongside the Belgian as potential summer recruits which also failed to materialise. The latter perhaps the biggest ‘Galactico’ of them all outside of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The former the undoubted ‘Galactico’ of the future, if not the present. In today’s current financial climate, however, the pair will be hard to lure away from the mega-bucks of Paris, even for a club the size of Madrid.
Hazard should not prove too tricky to acquire. The Belgian international turns 28 in January and the only obstacle seemingly in the way of preventing his ‘dream’ move to the Spanish capital, is Chelsea.
His recent quotes should not be taken wholly out of context, however. While Hazard admitted it has been a dream to pull on the famous white shirt of Madrid, he has been careful not to follow the same route as Thibaut Courtois, who has fallen out of favour with the Chelsea faithful following his move from England to Spain.
“I want what’s good for me, but I want what’s good for the club because the club has given me everything,” Hazard also said post-match. “I don’t want to say: ‘Yes, I am signing a new contract’ and then in the end I don’t end up signing. So I will see. Sometimes in my head, I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay. It is a hard decision. It is my future. I am 27 and I will turn 28 in January.”
Hazard scored his eighth goal of the season in Chelsea’s 3-0 away win over Southampton at the weekend – more than any Madrid player so far this term – and has also made the 30-man shortlist to win the Ballon d’Or.
The attacker has shone in the Premier League, in Europe and also with Belgium on the international stage, helping the Red Devils to a celebrated third place at the World Cup in Russia. He has the experience to handle the big occasion and that occasion gets no bigger than Real Madrid.
Whether or not Bale and Benzema continue in the Spanish capital, Hazard offers something different and exciting. While the Welshman has the pace and Benzema the link-up play, Hazard has the sight, skill and footballing brain like Antoine Greizmann or Lionel Messi. Or Isco, a man Madrid has missed hugely in recent weeks. A drop in results in his absence is no coincidence.
Pérez may prefer self-acclaimed Madrid fan Mbappe and ‘Galactico’ Neymar this coming summer, but taking everything account Hazard should be on to look at come the end of the season.