Eden Hazard’s thigh injury has delayed his start to life in La Liga, leaving the question of whether or not he will make a smooth transition to Spanish football. The Flemish forward, 28, signed in early June, penning a five-year-deal with Los Blancos worth initially €100m, rising to €130m based on performance-related installments. If those targets are met, he will become Madrid’s most expensive ever transfer.
A glitzy parade with over 50,000 delirious supporters gave him a hero’s welcome he yearned for, and arguably deserved, being a bona fide top-class footballer. Capable of dazzling brilliance and full of trickery, Hazard is the type of footballer you would pay hard-earned money to see - again and again and again.
The Belgium made his mark at Lille, with a highly productive five-year-spell, which included lifting the French Ligue 1 title in 2010-11. Joe Cole, fellow Chelsea alumni, said whilst playing and training together with Hazard in France that he would become football’s next big thing: “He was the best footballer I’ve ever play with,” said the Englishman - and his assessment proved to be bang on the money. Cole actually played a huge role in influencing Hazard’s career journey, being one of the principle people responsible for persuading him to take the plunge and join the West London outfit.
The classy Belgium attacker brings so much to the table; a modern-day versatile athlete, capable of slaloming his way through opposition defenses like a skier on a Sunday jaunt through a crispy snow-capped piste. Yet he is also a physical specimen who can certain handle himself. Seven grueling years in the notoriously demanding Premier League was clear evidence of that.
His joyous goals and outstanding assists have given all his teams the platform to grow and entertain and the Belgium international, with 102 caps to his name and 30 goals, still has more to give.
Having been the top dog at Stamford Bridge for his stint, winning mostly all there was to achieve both individually and collectively, the wizardry winger craved the one thing he dreamt of: playing for his boyhood Real Madrid. If that wasn’t enough to tempt him, playing under his hero and idol Zinedine Zidane would add a further burning desire to swap London for Madrid.
Hazard bowed out in the best way possible at Chelsea - scoring in and winning a European final with last season’s Europa League trophy success. It was a fitting end for one of the greatest foreign players to grace the English Premier League – certainly in the modern era. His record speaks for itself playing for the Blues of Chelsea: 245 appearances and 85 goals, winning six trophies. The PFA Player of the Year became a Premier League great and his legacy for his accomplishments at not just his club, but the league as a whole will be remembered forever.
After much courting from Madrid and the attacker himself, Hazard signed for Los Blancos and made his long and eagerly anticipated debut making headlines by wearing the number 50 shirt - dedicated in honour to the 50th anniversary of the historic Moon landing from July 20th 1969. It was one small step for Hazard on his debut yet was unable to take a giant leap in terms of being on the losing side in a 3-1 defeat against fellow European powerhouse Bayern Münich.
The Belgium attacker got off the mark with his first goal for Madrid coming in pre-season against Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg. It was a typical slalom style move of his with a well-executed and crisp finish. The Madridistas will be hoping for more of that when the league season starts in earnest.
Recently handed the prestigious number 7 shirt which echoes the likes of legendary players of Raúl and Cristiano Ronaldo, Hazard now has the ultimate task he wants at his ultimate place on the biggest and grandest stage of all. He must now demonstrate that exceptional form he has shown throughout his career and transfer that to Spanish shores. La Liga will represent a change the style of play he is used to – a less frantic paced league with the emphasis on technique. However, a player of his class should be perfectly adept to adapt to the rigors of Spanish football.
At Madrid, he will be the new beacon of hope - the new ‘Galactico’ who is expected to play with a swagger and get supporters off their seats. As he himself points out, “When you play for this club, you need to win something.” Knowledge and a reality that his time in the Santiago Bernabéu will be evaluated by the number of trophies and medals he has accumulated.
Hazard wants the take the league by storm – proving he will be Madrid’s dream ticket.