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Has Eden Hazard earned a move to Real Madrid?

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Eden Hazard's quality is clear to see - whether he ranks among the world's best is another matter entirely

Once quoted as saying he's as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were at his age and following it up recently - admitting that he believes himself to be the best player in the world - the form of Eden Hazard often says otherwise. The Belgium international joined Chelsea from Ligue 1 club Lille in 2012, coming in after winning the league title and scooping the coveted Coupe de France, where he was full of confidence and seeping with potential. A Europa League win during his second term at the club and a total of two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup have shown how big an impact he's had at Stamford Bridge, but there remains to be a hefty divide over whether he's worked his way into ranking among the best players in the world as he first predicted.

The silverware speaks for itself, achieving plenty of individual accolades as 2014/15 Premier League Player Of The Season, 2013/14 PFA Young Player Of The Year, four-time member of the PFA Team Of The Year, a member of the 2017 UEFA Team Of The Year, and coming away with enough last year alone such as the World Cup Silver Ball, the World Cup Top Assist Provider, and the Belgian Sportsman Of The Year. His ambition has been met with some of the most coveted individual achievements there are to gain, often only narrowly missing out on the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, but with many notable interviews where he saw himself as being capable of replacing the massive boots left vacant by Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, it's hard to put him on a similar pedestal to the Portuguese forward, and consistency has shown a glaring weakness.

Eden Hazard's record at the start of the season differs massively to his current form

Bursting into the current Premier League campaign with ten goals and three assists from his first twelve competitive fixtures for Chelsea, punters across the country hailed Eden Hazard for hitting his peak in what looked like his greatest season to date. There's no doubting this start, which saw him tearing teams to pieces, scoring in succession, knocking Liverpool out of the League Cup, and looking utterly formidable. It looked set to continue until his form once again petered out, leading to a completely polar-opposite run of form, where he sits with four goals and five assists in his last sixteen appearances for Chelsea. As soon as this other side to Eden Hazard begins to show itself, talk of a move to Real Madrid fall by the wayside, along with the comparisons between him, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Moving into the second portion of the season, we're seeing less of the 'Eden Hazard Chelsea superstar' that makes a move to one of Europe's elite look almost certain to come into fruition. Not only does his inconsistent form raise question marks above potential moves elsewhere, but it also contradicts past statements about how he'd become the best player in the world by the time he reached a peak age, as he's now twenty-eight years old, and this should be the season where he stands out in the Premier League ahead of every other player.

Eden Hazard Thorgan Hazard Belgium Borussia Monchengladbach Chelsea
Younger brother Thorgan Hazard has nine goals and six assists in the Bundesliga this season, with Borussia Dortmund interested in signing the twenty-five-year-old this January

Boxing Day saw Eden Hazard scoring his 100th goal for Chelsea, as he converted a penalty to complete a brace at Vicarage Road. This was a landmark that a lot of other attacking players weren't able to reach; the previous eleven games only saw two goals, with far more quality expected from players who label themselves as being up there with the best players in the world. Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah faced a lot of criticism from neutral fans at the start of the campaign through not being as unstoppable as he was towards the end of the previous season, but the Egyptian now has more Premier League goals than Hazard.

Opinions of Eden Hazard from teammates and pundits

Since taking over from Antonio Conte in the summer, Maurizio Sarri has been openly hopeful of keeping Eden Hazard at the club, but there's always been an indication that he might not be completely terrified by the concept of losing the Belgian. Of course, the phrase 'no player is bigger than the club' often reappears during transfer windows, but it's always felt like maybe Eden Hazard isn't an utterly crucial piece of Sarri's Chelsea puzzle, and that he wouldn't see rebuilding without him as being as much of an obstacle.

In terms of those who've played alongside him, there have been a different assortment of reactions. After defeating Manchester United in last year's FA Cup final, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger pleaded with him, saying: "Eden Hazard, please stay!". In response, Hazard joked: "I need Rudiger to play like this every game, then I'll stay!" As for more serious thoughts, Cesc Fabregas was honest with his assessment of the Belgian. He said: "With Eden, one thing I can say is that outside of the pitch, if I was a coach, I would never give him the armband". This was a strong statement to make about one of Chelsea's most important players, and it's been followed up by a similar comment on his personality from Jorginho, who implied that he could be better than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo if he scored more goals.

Joe Cole Eden Hazard Lille England Belgium Chelsea
Upon retiring this season, Joe Cole hailed Hazard, saying: "If my life depended on it, I would pick Hazard [as the best player I've played with]"

Taking a very different stance, former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas openly spoke of how Chelsea are letting Eden Hazard down, rather than him letting them down with inconsistent form. He started by saying that Hazard was 'unplayable at times', before controversially stating that he thinks Hazard is 'too good for Chelsea'. He elaborated: "Chelsea are obviously a top, top side but I think he has outgrown them. I think he has outgrown his position within that team. He needs to move on. He is above a level of everyone else that is around him."

Eden Hazard Odds - Will Real Madrid attempt to sign the attacker?

One of the main reoccurring transfer rumours from the Premier League focuses on Eden Hazard, who's often looked set to swap Stamford Bridge for the Bernabeu. It's more likely that you'd get behind him to move to Real Madrid in the summer, but fifty percent of punters that are betting on his next move this January are currently following Eden Hazard transfer rumours that hint at a move to Real Madrid. Hazard odds go as high as 10/1 for him to sign for the La Liga club before the current window closes, with the bookies expecting him to stay until the summer. Whether he's at the standard of Real Madrid, who continue to face their own struggles with a faltering squad and it looking like a player who struggles with consistency would only derail their chances to get back as a title challenger even more, is another thing.

Bookmakers are also currently offering prices on a move in the January transfer window to Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City. It looks as if Eden Hazard's Chelsea career is in his own hands, with most of the speculation around a potential move away only coming from leading comments he's made to the press in past years. His age is an undeniable stumbling block, with most top European clubs paying big money for potential ahead of all other features, making a twenty-eight-year-old player only priceless if he guarantees prolific form; younger figures in England such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Christian Eriksen, and Leroy Sane could pose far more value for money. Eden Hazard has shown world-class performances in the World Cup with Belgium and he often shows it with Chelsea, but whether it's enough for a club in the mould of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus remains to be seen.

Eden Hazard Chelsea FA Cup
It wouldn't be a surprise to see another transfer window where Eden Hazard opts to remain at Chelsea

Is Eden Hazard letting Chelsea down? Or are Chelsea letting Eden Hazard down?

The brash quotes from Jermaine Jenas following Tottenham Hotspur's narrow victory over Chelsea in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final critically claimed Eden Hazard to be better than the level currently being donned at Chelsea. It's difficult to accurately distinguish whether this is true or whether Eden Hazard is letting Chelsea down with being inconsistent throughout the season. That being said, he always stands up and is counted when it matters, turning up in big games and performing as the club's best player when they're going through their strongest form, which is the least you'd expect from a man who's so often classed as being among the world's best. He also showed similar quality during the last World Cup, where he was a primary piece of the puzzle for Belgium, who only narrowly fell short of a place in the final against eventual World Cup 2018 winners France.

We expect Eden Hazard to show more of the sensational form that he's known for into the second half of the season, even tipping him to score first in our preview for Chelsea v Newcastle United this weekend. Not only that, but we see his dominance over smaller teams as being so severe that he's been included in this week's Fantasy Football Tips, where he could add fuel to the fire of a move to Real Madrid in the summer if he can get back to the solid form expected of him. It could be a missed opportunity for Eden Hazard based on age, as it's massively unlikely to see a club with ambitions as high as Real Madrid looking to pay big money on a player who'll be thirty by the time he's halfway through his contract. Players like Andrea Pirlo have proven in past years that growing old can be a positive, as he showed far stronger performances after reaching his latter years at Juventus, but we can only hope that Eden Hazard is stepping into the best stage of his playing career, even if it means having to leave in order to reach the heights he's always set himself.