What is behind Eden Hazard's early struggles at Real Madrid?
Background photo: Little Savage CC BY-SA 4.0
During his time with Chelsea, it felt like everyone understood that Eden Hazard's transfer to Real Madrid was a matter of when rather than if. In a world where players are usually quick to play down transfer speculation, the Belgian, somewhat refreshingly, never hesitated to reveal his dream to play for his childhood club.
On the other hand, it has been reported that Real had closely monitored Hazard for over a decade. Their interest in the brilliant attacker goes way back and although they had refrained from making the big-name signing for a fair while - eventually, they'd cave in and bring the 28-year-old to the Santiago Bernabeu.
When Madrid eventually succeeded in sealing a £100million deal for the Belgian this summer, it appeared a match made in heaven. Hazard has been amongst the top performers in Europe for the past few years. He's a rare player who'd improve every single side in world football when at the peak of his powers.
The fans were glad to welcome him to the Spanish capital. Following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left for Juventus last summer, Los Blancos supporters had been singing into the ears of Florentino Perez to make that marquee acquisition. The Merengues had high hopes for their Galactico signing. He was entrusted to take the key role and lead the club to revival in the 2019/20 term; or so they thought.
Two months have already passed and Hazard is still struggling to find his feet at the Bernabeu. He doesn't even appear to be anywhere close to the expectations upon his shoulders and a closer look at the statistics only backs that up.
Hazard has appeared in six games across the La Liga and the Champions League so far this term, amassing 426 minutes of playing time. He has a disappointing return of only one goal and an assist to his name. Simply put, that's not enough.
When you compare that with the records with Madrid's other major players, it makes for grim reading. Gareth Bale has two goals and two assists in 597 minutes, while Karim Benzema has struck six times and assisted twice in 792 minutes. Hazard is way off the pace, which is frustrating as many expected him to become the focal point in Real's attack.
It's well-known that no underperforming player can avoid the wrath of those expectant Bernabeu fans. He's only a few months into his Madrid career and both the media and supporters are already criticising the former Chelsea playmaker. Spanish newspaper, AS, recently slammed him for looking 'somewhat out of shape' following the 3-0 Champions League defeat to PSG. Things are already collapsing for the attacker. At this stage it's important to explore the factors behind his struggles at the Bernabeu.
To start with, one might need to question whether Hazard has joined the right club at the right time. While a move to Real is, without doubt, a step forward, it doesn't look like the attacker got his timing right. He has joined the club at a time when they are striving to find balance. Los Blancos endured a torrid outing last season, both domestically and in Europe. So far this campaign, their struggles still remain.
An injury issue is also a major factor. Hazard suffered a thigh problem during a training session in pre-season which kept the Belgian sidelined for a month. He missed Los Blancos' first three games of the campaign and as a result, his adaptation process was disrupted and his fitness affected - hence the early-season struggle. So how can he move forward from here?
The attacker simply needs to ignore the critics and work extraordinarily hard to turn his fate around. Fitness should be at the forefront of his mind and when Hazard is feeling fully fit, only then should he look to adapt to the Madrid system.
Zinedine Zidane recently stated that the playmaker 'lacks little things'. Working closely with the manager will help speed things up. Hazard is a world-class player, nobody can deny that. In time he'll overturn the situation, though that's something the Berna-boo boys don't usually allow...