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From Chelsea Superstar To Madrid Misery: Will Injury-Hit Hazard Ever Be ‘F*cking Amazing’ Again?

The Belgium international returns to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday having barely featured in his two seasons at Santiago Bernabeu due to fitness issues 

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Forty yards from goal, kissing the touchline by the dug-outs, Eden Hazard conjured one of the passes of the season.

The Real Madrid winger, almost on top of Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrasate, backheeled the ball powerfully towards goal, allowing Marco Asensio to race onto it and burst into the area. 

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It was the clearest reminder yet that the Hazard story is not over.

The Belgium forward, making his first start since January, impressed as his team earned a 2-0 win at Estadio Alfredio di Stefano and kept pace in La Liga’s gripping title race on Saturday.

Whether Hazard did enough in his bright 72-minute showing to convince Zinedine Zidane that he should start in the Champions League against Chelsea, only his coach knows, but his opposite number Thomas Tuchel will be preparing for it.

The injury-plagued winger has played only 755 minutes all season, across all competitions – barely over eight full matches worth of football.

“I’m not a Galactico yet,” he warned after signing, and still isn’t.

His recent cameos, however, have been encouraging and he offers something nobody else at Madrid can, combining Vinicius Junior’s waspish menace with Karim Benzema’s quality on the ball and Luka Modric’s mobility.

There was another moment against Osasuna where he got in behind the panicking defence and his low cross was scrambled to safety. It was the kind of dribble he regularly produced at Chelsea, and which marked him out as one of the best on the ball in the world.

If Zidane picks him at Stamford Bridge in Wednesday’s semi-final second leg, it will not be a good-hearted gesture, allowing Hazard to play at his old stomping ground, but a clear-headed call, to try and hurt Chelsea and their newfound defensive solidity.

The former Lille star enjoyed his best days in west London, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two Europa Leagues among other trophies, as well as Chelsea’s Player of the Year award on four occasions.

Hazard signed for Madrid in 2019, at the age of 28, having joined Chelsea in June 2012 at 21. For much of his time in England he was one of the division’s elite players, able to destroy and thrill in equal measure.

When Hazard picked up the ball, an excited, expectant silence fell over the Bridge. It always meant something was about to happen, even if nothing was on. He managed 110 goals and 92 assists in 352 appearances.

In his final season at Chelsea, he scored found the net on 21 occasions, a tally he has only once bettered back in his Ligue 1 days, and was arguably at his peak ahead of his switch to Santiago Bernabeu.

Hazard played in 52 games under Maurizio Sarri in 2018-19, more or less his average across seven seasons at Chelsea, scoring once every three matches while in England.

At Madrid that figure is one in 10, but there is still hope he can find his decisive best again.

With club finances at a low ebb, Los Blancos badly need Hazard to show the world-class talent they thought they were signing.

With a year left on his Blues deal, paying up to €160 million (£142m/$181m) for Hazard seemed excessive, but Madrid were desperate for a player of his ilk to fill the hole left by Cristiano Ronaldo. Eden took the No.7 shirt, but not the Portuguese forward’s responsibility.

Hazard and Benzema were expected to form a dynamic duo for Madrid, and while the Frenchman has fulfilled his part of the bargain, Real are still waiting on the only marquee signing they have made since James Rodriguez in 2014 to come good.

It is difficult to imagine that Hazard will ever get back to the level of consistency he showed in SW6. The injury problems he has suffered are anathema for a player whose explosiveness is one of his greatest attributes. The many fouls he suffered at Chelsea are taking their toll now.

That does not mean he will be incapable of important contributions to the Madrid cause in the years ahead. While Zidane and Florentino Perez would be best advised not to build their next project around him, Hazard can still make a big difference.

Benzema, at 33, is in the form of his career and can still be the ideal foil for Hazard, setting him the perfect example in that regard, with the Belgian now 30.

Missing the majority of this heavily-compressed season may not be the worst thing for Hazard either. While other players are suffering burn-out, he can be a breath of fresh air.

“When he is fit, he’s going to be f*cking amazing,” promised Zidane in March. “I just want people to see the player he is.”

Hazard may have to modify his playing style to stay relevant at the top level in the seasons to come, but in the short-term he is still capable of leaving his mark in the way he knows best.

There is no better stage for him to make a decisive difference in Real Madrid’s quest for their 14th Champions League trophy than his former home, where he made his name.

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” announced author Mark Twain in London, in 1897. Hazard will be looking to make a similar point in the English capital this week.

source:- goal

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