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What's Gone Wrong For Eden Hazard at Real Madrid?

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Eden Hazard's dream move turns into a nightmare

Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid is one that has felt like years in the making. As has been the case with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, the Belgian was no stranger to expressing his desire for this move, and, last summer, the least surprising transfer of the year eventually went through.

At first, it appeared a match made in heaven. It had been a few years since a true Galactico, with Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez in 2014 - a year after Bale's record-breaking deal - being the last superstar dealings.

Hazard looked to be one of the few worthy candidates to wear the number seven shirt left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Chelsea man has been arguably the best player in the Premier League over the last few seasons, and even with the fee potentially exceeding £150m, it looked like a solid investment. After years building himself into superstardom at Stamford Bridge and teasing the likes of Los Blancos with his trickery each week, it was a move nobody argued, even the most hardcore Chelsea fans.

Whatever Hazard dreamed his first season with Madrid would look like it certainly wasn’t what he got. Starting the season with a hamstring injury meant that he didn’t get his first start until mid-September, which eventually came in a 3-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain, where the winger failed to create any chances in an anonymous performance.

Playing away in the Champions League isn’t the ideal start to life at a new club, so many swept it under the carpet in the hope that Hazard would hit the ground running in the league. 

Life in La Liga also wasn’t treating the Belgian as expected, however. It took Madrid’s new star until his fifth game in the league to register a goal or assist. It’s not as if his side were struggling in that time either, running parallel with Barcelona at the top. Indeed, Hazard’s first five games with Madrid were unbeaten, only dropping points in a 0-0 draw against rivals Atletico Madrid.

The former Lille star's performances remained to be quiet and an injury picked up in the return fixture against PSG in November all but wrote off his debut season, forcing him out until February.

So far, it has been far from the fairytale start Hazard would have hoped and as we all expected. The likes of Ronaldo and Bale have had astronomical debut seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, so why hasn't their new number seven?

Let's take a look.

An Injury Curse

At Chelsea, Hazard was fortunate enough to say injuries were a great problem. He did miss an entire preseason and the start of the new season on 2017, but the timing of that one ensured he didn't only missed a few games.

Back in 2016, a hip problem forced him out for five games for Chelsea, which again, was not too drastic. Now, with Los Blancos, an injury curse seems to have overshadowed everything for the first time in his career.

In truth, Hazard’s start to life in Madrid got off to the worst possible start. Missing the first three games of the season is the last thing you need when adapting to life in a new team and that’s exactly what Hazard had to suffer, after a hamstring injury kept him out early on.

What this meant was that Hazard was thrown straight into the deep end, which he never seemed to recover from. Starting against PSG after just preseason minutes with such a gargantuan club is far from ideal, and it proved too much to handle. The loss in Paris would have been a big blow to the Belgian’s confidence and Hazard struggled to get back to the form he had shown at Chelsea just a season earlier.

Perhaps it was inevitable that he was going to pick up some injuries at some point. The tricky winger spent seven years consistently being one of the most fouled players in the Premier League with only ever picking up one serious injury - that ankle issue in 2017, which forced surgery.

Hazard's style of play draws defenders in and the number of fouls he receives is only a testament to his talent. Unfortunately, it seems to have caught up to him at the wrong time and ultimately ruined his the debut season with his dream club.

After returning from his first injury in February, it looked a good opportunity for Hazard to have a strong finish to the season and gain some momentum for his second year in Madrid. Two games later, however, and his season was finished, suffering what turned out to be fractured ankle in Madrid’s shock home defeat to Levante.

With any luck, Hazard will return to fitness and his second year in Madrid will be one that isn’t blemished by injury. Ultimately, though, injuries have been the key factor in his dream start becoming a nightmare, making just 10 La Liga appearances from 27.

Madrid, however, are still just two points behind Barcelona without his services on a consistent basis. Although, this does make you think where Los Blancos could be with him in the side; perhaps another league title would have been around the corner.

ICYMI: Read on the potential replacements for Harry Kane with a move to Real Madrid looking very close.

A price tag never helps

When a player is signed for a fee which could exceed £150m, they are expected to perform from the off, no matter what. Signings such as Paul Pogba at Manchester United are evidence to this, whilst you only have to attend one Madrid home game to see the reception Bale gets from a bad touch.

It's an unfair but harsh reality, as the player has no say in the price tag, and it is more or less attached to them so we can make an easy excuse or give us an easy tagline. But, nevertheless, with incredible ability and such ridiculous fees, you simply have to prove your worth.

At Madrid, this is especially true. Known for their Galactico signings, Hazard is just another player in a long line of expensive transfers, who can't even blink without brutal analysis. The Bernabeu faithful are so used to success, that when a player comes in for a big price, they expect the best.

Bale, who signed for a world-record fee, has won four Champions League titles with Madrid, and ultimately won two finals almost single handily, whilst scoring a Copa Del Ray final winner in his debut season, also.

An outrageous overhead kick and a goal minutes later saw Madrid claim their 13th European title, which came just five seasons after Bale scored the decisive goal against Atletico in the 2014 Champions League final.

Now, Hazard's expectation is only greater, considering the Welshman is so unfairly treated after a glamorous seven years. Whilst the price tag isn't directly a contribution to his ultimate demise, it certainly hasn't helped.

One final factor in Hazard's poor start to life in Spain is his adaptation to Madrid’s style and expectations. Could it be that the Belgian simply lacks the ruthlessness which fans of Los Blancos have grown accustomed to? Or how he isn't so much the main man as he was for Chelsea?

Madrid have had an incredible goalscoring record throughout their entire history, having been home to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano and Raul to name just a few. Galacticos are expected to perform like those before them and Hazard’s failure to meet these expectations has cast a bad light on him. 

It’s not as if Hazard doesn't have the capabilities, more so how he doesn’t possess the freakish goalscoring of the man who wore the number seven before him. Madrid fans should have known they weren’t getting a new Ronaldo, instead, they were getting a different type of player who still possesses immense talent just without the insane numbers. 

His injury record means that Hazard’s first season in Madrid can’t truly be classed as a failure but beyond that, the fans perspective has made the situation worse. Hazard is still an incredible player regardless of if he fits the mould that Madrid is expected by the hierarchy. A full season without injury will allow the ex-Chelsea man the chance to show what he capable of and get the numbers he can and will get.

This past season hasn’t been ideal, but the injuries mean it should be somewhat written off and next season can be where Hazard gives a true reflection of his talents.

By Jak Richardson