Earlier this week Chelsea star Eden Hazard sent shockwaves throughout the world of football after announcing that he knows what he is going to do at the end of this season.
The Belgian has been linked with a move away from Chelsea for a number of years now, most frequently with Real Madrid, who are also the favourites to sign him. Hazard told French radio station RMC earlier this week: “I know what I am going to do. I have made my decision,” sparking speculation that he is headed for the Bernabeu.
Should he leave, it would be a huge blow to Chelsea and their ambitions moving forward, with Hazard being their attacking talisman and crucial to the way in which Maurizio Sarri wants his team to play.
The Sarri appointment was likely made in order to try and keep Hazard at the club, with the Italian bringing an attacking, progressive philosophy with him to Stamford Bridge, contradicting the pragmatic ways of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte of years gone by.
However, the Italian’s standing at the club isn’t particularly strong, with the team currently battling it out for a place in the top four and Sarri has already publicly called out his players, saying they are tough to motivate. But should Hazard swap the Premier League for La Liga this summer?
Now or never
In terms of timing, this seems like the prime opportunity for Hazard to move to Real Madrid. He is now 28-years-old and in the prime of his career, having scored 12 goals and provided 10 assists in 21 starts for Chelsea in the Premier League.
As such, he is already just five goals away from beating his best ever return in a league campaign for Chelsea, whilst being two assists shy of doing the same in his production of goals for teammates.
Hazard was also one of the standout players at the 2018 World Cup, demonstrating to all that he is capable of performing on the biggest of stages when focused and determined to do so.
There were rumours circulating that he could be on his way to Madrid last summer, but doing so in 2019 makes far more sense. Should he join later this year, he would do so a year removed from Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the Bernabeu, relieing any potential added pressure that would come with being his direct replacement.
Hazard is a much different player to Ronaldo and comparisons between the two - and most prevalently their numbers - would be unfair to say the least considering what the Portuguese forward achieved in his time at the club.
Madrid also look set to rebuild their side next season after what has ultimately been a disappointing campaign for them so far in 2018/19. They currently trail Barcelona by eight points at the top of the La Liga table, having lost six of their first 22 games and look set to miss out on the title for the sixth time in the last seven years.
There is space for a new Galactico at Madrid this summer and Hazard certainly fits the bill.What also should not be forgotten is the factor of Champions League football, with Chelsea competing in the Europa League this season after failing to finish in the top four last time out. A player of Hazard’s quality should perennially figure in Europe’s elite club competition and his current side still aren’t guaranteed of a place in the competition for next season.
Should they again miss out on the top four and fail to win the Europa League, it would be no surprise to see Hazard depart as he looks to add a Champions League winners medal to his impressive collection of honours. And where better to go than Madrid to chase it, who have been crowned European champions in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five years.
Making a case to stay
Still, as great as the lure of Madrid is, it’s not as if Hazard has a particularly poor situation where he currently is.
Hazard is loved by Chelsea fans and already heralded as an all-time great player for the club, and refuting interest from the rest of Europe would only further endear him to the club and their fans.
If he were to join Madrid, it’s almost impossible that he would receive the same level of adulation. Look at Gareth Bale, who despite winning the Champions League on four separate occasions - scoring in two of the finals - is still something of a polarising figure to Madrid fans and came under intense scrutiny in his second season.
Another player to carefully consider is Philippe Coutinho, who like Hazard was the talisman of his team before leaving Liverpool to join Barcelona in January 2018. Coutinho has struggled to settle at the Nou Camp and truly show his best form, whilst the Brazilian also missed out on a run to the Champions League final in which he could’ve been a decisive figure in the outcome of the game.
It really comes down to whether or not Hazard wants that added pressure or not. Put simply, there’s no way he could go a whole calendar year without a league goal like he did at Chelsea and get away with it at Madrid.
Regardless of that dry spell where he seemed to completely give up in the 2015/16 season, Chelsea fans still worship him and tipex that out of his history with the club. That would certainly not be the case at the Bernabeu.
It’s also important to remember that although Hazard says his mind his made up, he has given no indication as to what his decision may be. Back in December, he appeared to state his desire to stay with Chelsea after surpassing 100 goals for the club.
He said: "Scoring 101 goals with this amazing club is something I will never forget, but now I think the fans, the staff, myself, the players, we want more."I want to score more for this club and then try to be a legend like [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry, [Didier] Drogba, I try to do my best. But when we are winning we can enjoy a lot."
It’s a huge decision for Hazard to make, but one that will be incredibly difficult to turn down should Madrid come calling. Come what may this summer he will go down as a Chelsea legend, having won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League in his stint already, with the potential of adding to that this season.
The chance to be the star player in a rebuild for a club the size of Los Blancos doesn’t come around too often and, should he pass up on it, may well wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of his life.
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