Eden Hazard watched the pictures on television at home as Real Madrid’s players and staff celebrated Saturday’s Club World Cup victory in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. The record signing for Real Madrid is now an outsider who appears to be headed elsewhere. While other injured individuals from the crew, like his dear companion Thibaut Courtois or Lucas Vazquez, had traveled toward the North African country for the last against Saudi side Al Hilal, Hazard remained in Spain.
This was just the latest chapter in a story in which Hazard has become increasingly disengaged from Madrid’s first team, even though the absence of left-back Ferland Mendy from the 90-minute trip may appear to be a minor detail.
The Belgian, now 32 years old, signed for an initial €100 million (£88.3 million; $107.6 million) from Chelsea in the summer of 2019 and remains Madrid’s most expensive acquisition. Additional add-ons totaling up to a reported €160 million were included in the deal that brought him to Madrid. The cost has exceeded the €101 million that the club ultimately spent in 2013 to acquire Gareth Bale, although not all of these have been activated. Hazard has played 73 games, scored seven goals, and contributed 11 assists since joining the club.
He has a contract until 2024, but his relationship with the club’s current manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has become increasingly tense. This month, he and his agents are scheduled to meet, and both the club and the player will likely agree to part ways. It is anticipated that it will be amicable; The coaching staff has no issues with Hazard because he is popular in the locker room. Hazard is aware, however, that he has not been considered a member of the main group for a considerable amount of time.
Following the departure from Chelsea, things did not get off to a good start. Despite being the most expensive player in Madrid’s history, Hazard admitted later that he was overweight when he arrived for his first pre-season game. He then got hurt in his hamstring a week before he was supposed to make his La Liga debut.
When he recovered from that, it took him some time to regain his form, but when he did, he impressed fans with excellent performances, particularly against Eibar and Paris Saint-Germain. But then came the match that many now consider Hazard’s Madrid career’s turning point. It happened on November 26, 2019, when PSG played their final Champions League group match in Madrid. Both Madrid and Hazard believe that a serious injury he sustained during a tough challenge from fellow countryman Thomas Meunier was the beginning of his serious issues.
Hazard’s right ankle, which he had previously had surgery to fix with a metal plate, was the affected area. He was now out for three months due to a new, minor fracture. Hazard didn’t miss as many games as he might have because of the pandemic layoff. The league was moved to the summer and the European Championship was moved up a year to 2021. But when La Liga played again in secret in June, it was clear that Hazard had changed.
Hazard was physically and mentally bothered by that plate in his ankle, and it started to entangle him in a depressing cycle of being out of action for the same issue, not performing at his best, or getting a new injury.
In March 2021, Hazard decided he wanted to have another operation to remove the plate, but Madrid told him not to. In these conditions, an entire year passed. Hazard was dissatisfied and performing poorly in the few appearances he made. The player’s wishes were granted by the club in March of last year, and the plate was removed.
In his three-a-half seasons as a Madrid player, Hazard has been sidelined for 498 days and missed 77 games due to 18 injuries, according to Transfermarkt data. In contrast, during his seven seasons at Chelsea, he sustained 13 injuries, missed 21 matches, and spent 198 days on the sidelines. Hazard is in a very delicate position as a result of all of this.
Because he and his family have always felt at ease in the city and at the club, he has always wanted to keep his contract with Madrid. However, something has changed recently. The Belgian has almost no contact with Ancelotti, according to sources close to him who spoke anonymously to protect relationships. Hazard, according to them, feels like the Madrid manager has let him down because he hasn’t gotten the playing time he thought he would get. Hazard, according to them, has been disappointed by their relationship’s breakdown and feels ignored by the Italian.
Certainly, Ancelotti stated that Hazard “will be one of the players who will play more in this second part of the season” toward the end of December.
Madrid’s No. 7 has only played 67 minutes since then, all of which came in a Copa del match against Cacereno, a third-tier team, with two minor injuries in between. Since September 11, he has not participated in La Liga play.
To protect their identities, anonymous members of Madrid’s coaching staff told The Athletic that they consider Hazard’s angst normal and something that typically occurs when a player does not get to play. They think of him in the same way that the rest of the team does: as a good guy who has had bad luck but has always behaved well for himself and not caused any problems for the group.
At the most recent World Cup, Hazard was in charge of a Belgium team that lost in the group stage and only played 125 of the 270 minutes across their three matches. Only three of those minutes were in the final match against Croatia, which was crucial to their chances of making the knockout stage.
He stated that if asked to leave Madrid in the summer of 2023, he would do so, in an interview with the Spanish news outlet Marca before the tournament. Additionally, a route for his departure is likely to be outlined at the player and his agents’ scheduled meeting this month.
Real Madrid is now nothing short of a nightmare.