Real Madrid may have been sad in the loss of Athletic Club, but Eden Hazard’s performance is a reason to smile
When Real Madrid signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea in 2019, there was a real belief that he could be the catalyst for future success.
After a trophy-laden spell that saw Zinedine Zidane’s side clinch no fewer than three Champions League crowns in as many years, Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018 signaled the end of an era at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Naturally, the loss of the superstar saw Real run into starting issues and, in their first season without the Portuguese goal machine, Real finished a disappointing third in La Liga and were kicked out of the Champions League in the last 16.
Hazard’s arrival was not a knee-jerk reaction to their poor campaign – Los Blancos had courted the Belgian for some time – although he was still seen as the man to bring the spark back to the capital.
18 months later and Hazard put together 22 meager La Liga appearances in the famed Madrid white, scoring just two goals in the process.
True, injuries have affected the 30-year-old’s time in Spain, and even this season he has managed just over four hours of league football. However, his appearance in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals against Athletic Club on Thursday night was his fourth game in just over a fortnight – just the second time since arriving in Spain that he has played over three consecutive matches.
In a week where Zidane sanctioned Luka Jovic’s departure to former club Eintracht Frankfurt, Madrid’s attacking options suddenly seem exhausted, but – despite a truly despicable team performance – Hazard’s display against Athletic was a reminder timely that he still had a huge role to play. at the club.
The ex-Chelsea man looked sharp from the start, pricking Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon’s fingertips before a nice back-and-forth with Casemiro who nearly broke the deadlock, only so that Hazard was denied one last challenge.
One thing that became very clear as the game progressed was that the Belgium international was playing with the kind of swagger and confidence that we had become so used to seeing during his time at Chelsea.
Far from being stuck on the left wing, Hazard drifted down the line before the entire game, scooping up small pockets of space on the u-turn where he could probe and seek to cause mischief.
He almost helped give Madrid a foothold in the game when his smart move saw him slip away from the opponents’ baseline, before showing the presence of mind to bring the ball back to Marcos Asensio, only for the Spaniard slams the post with his left foot. effort.
The movement and intelligence in choosing a teammate was first class, and in truth, it deserved so much more.
While Zidane’s team were absolutely sad at night, the only light shining for them was Hazard’s display. It lasted just under 70 minutes – his second longest run of the season – and it was perfectly clear that there was still some magic in these boots.
If Hazard can continue to play regularly, it won’t be long before he is back in top form and he can play an important role in Real Madrid’s season.