Eden Hazard scored his first goal of the season in his first start last weekend.
The Belgian has been a colossal disappointment for Los Blancos since signing from Chelsea for a massive €120m. Long coveted by Zinedine Zidane himself, it was expected that Hazard would lead Madrid as the new star of the team, but instead injury, fitness issues and poor form dogged him; he scored just once in a debut season plagued by injury.
But now he’s fit again and after his performance at the weekend against Huesca, and having played 65 minutes in the midweek win over Inter, is he about to unleash himself?
- Age: 29
- League stats for Real Madrid (1,146 minutes played)
- Goals: 2
- Assists: 3
- Chances created: 21
- Dribbles completed: 51
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There will have been great zeal in how quickly Hazard’s signing was mocked for its failure even as Madrid won La Liga. Comparisons to Coutinho joining Barcelona felt apt; a Premier League star coming to La Liga and finding the technical standard much higher than they were used to. But unlike the Brazilian, Hazard was dogged by injury. That doesn’t excuse everything, but he played just 22 games (his fewest in a season going back to 2007/08).
So forget last season; this is a new beginning for Hazard. Will he be successful? Consider him a new signing and analyse what he can bring to the team: he’s fast and skilful, which is pretty much a must for all Madrid players really. He is a world-class dribbler, top three on the planet. Given how useful dribblers are to break down defences, having someone like Hazard around should make Madrid much more potent.
For Hazard’s last three seasons in the Premier League he completed a league-high 404 take-ons and 252 chances (second by five to Christian Eriksen). He was an absolute dynamo. Now of course dribbling in La Liga isn’t as easy, but you don’t lose the kind of talent Hazard has.
Recall how difficult Luka Modric found it to adapt to the Spanish top flight, but he eventually conquered it, and it would take a bold person to rule out the possibility of Eden Hazard doing something similar.
At the very least, the game against Huesca showed us that Hazard has lost none of that unpredictable, improvisational genius. The Belgian opened the scoring with a rasping drive from 30 yards out, catching the goalkeeper unawares as he struck it with his weaker left foot.
As he gets more games under his belt, Hazard will get even more sharper and focused. Putting a talent like him at the head of a defensively solid but unspectacular side like Zidane’s Madrid is an explosive combination. You never want to put everything on one man’s shoulders, but Hazard’s ability to dribble, to create out of nothing, to be the side’s talisman. Those are the qualities Madrid are crying out for right now.
With the exception of Mohamed Salah, you could not find a forward more perfectly suited to playing for Real Madrid right now. There is no better choice to be the attacking talisman Real Madrid want to have out wide. Hazard fills almost every attacking void the Real Madrid squad has in attack and, provided he can stay fit, he should explode in La Liga this season.