At long last, Eden Hazard is officially a Real Madrid player having been unveiled in front of over 50,000 supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday evening.
In front of a raucous crowd, the Belgian star displayed the usual amount of tricks and flicks expected at a Los Blancos unveiling but, of course, his exploits over the years at Chelsea mean he has little to prove on the pitch.
But, as ever with Hazard, his frank, honest style meant for an interesting press conference, where he revealed his ambitions with Los Blancos and just what he aims to achieve at what he calls ‘the world’s best club’.
So, what did we learn as Real Madrid signalled their intent to the rest of the footballing world with the unveiling of Hazard?
Real Madrid unveiling a new player almost always draws a huge amount of fanfare and Hazard was no exception.
The Belgian’s big moment drew a crowd of 50,000, the third-highest at the Bernabeu behind Kaka (55,000) and Cristiano Ronaldo (75,000) and the sixth-highest recorded in Europe overall.
That 50,000-strong contingent even outstripped the attendance for four of Real’s home games last season, with matches against Getafe (48,364 fans), Huesca (49,293), Villarreal (46,294) and Real Betis (49,879) all drawing lower crowds.
Largest crowds to see a player presented:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid): 75,000*
2. Diego Maradona (Napoli): 65,000
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona): 60,000
4. Neymar (Barcelona): 57,000
5. Kaká (Real Madrid): 55,000
6. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid): 50,000
7. Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid): 50,000
8. Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors): 45,000
9. James Rodriguez (Real Madrid): 36,000
10. David Villa (Barcelona): 35,000
* It has been reported elsewhere that 80,000 came to Cristiano Ronaldo’s unveiling.
2. He won’t be wearing his favoured number 10 shirt
With both Chelsea and Belgium, Hazard’s number 10 shirt has struck fear into opposition defenders and kept staff at club shops busy, day after day.
At Real Madrid, however, he will have to sport a different number, such is the wealth of talent at the Bernabeu that Luka Modric already occupies the number 10.
“I’ve been lucky enough to speak to Modric through [Mateo] Kovacic. I asked him if he would let me have his number 10 as a joke and he said no,” he laughed.
In truth, it is unlikely to bother Hazard, but he is going to have to get used to sitting in a pecking order now that he’s upgraded to such a huge club…
3. He’ll have to answer to Sergio Ramos
…which brings us nicely to penalties.
Over the past three seasons, Hazard has taken nine penalties in the Premier League, scoring eight of them. Of course, you’ll also remember his conversion from the spot in Chelsea’s 4-1 demolition of Arsenal in the recent Europa League final. Keeping goalkeepers guessing and sending them the wrong way is firmly in his playbook.
But in Sergio Ramos, Los Blancos already have an expert marksman from 12 yards, as well as an unyielding character who is unlikely to bow to anyone – even someone as illustrious as Hazard.
Hazard seems to have accepted his place as the ‘new lad’, but has opened an invitation to take spot kicks, should Ramos become bored of the whole affair.
“There are a number of big players here, and I’m the new lad. The captain is good at taking penalties, but I’m happy to take them if asked” he said with a wry smile.
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4. Benzema > Jovic
Scoring 30 goals in 52 appearances across all competitions, 31-year-old Karim Benzema was a completely rejuvinated figure for Real Madrid last season, even if many of his teammates floundered around him.
The signing of Luka Jovic has been seen by many as a replacement for the Frenchman, though, despite his upturn in form.
But Hazard’s comments reveal a slightly different story, with the former Lille man labelling Benzema as the ‘world’s best striker’ and speaking about his excitement at linking up with the veteran.
“I played against him when he was at Lyon,” Hazard said. “His last nine years with Madrid have been incredible, I think he’s the world’s best striker. Playing and training with him will make me better and I’m confident we’ll have a good understanding.”
Real are likely to want to please their latest megastar.
5. You moved on fast…
After winning six major honours together, Hazard and Chelsea’s fans are likely to always have a special relationship but my word, he’s moved on quick.
In reality, Hazard’s unveiling was never going to go by without a badge kiss, he’s a crowd pleaser at the end of the day. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t broken Chelsea hearts in the process…
Eden Hazard was officially unveiled as a Real Madrid player on Thursday.
The fans LOVED IT when he kissed the club's badge. pic.twitter.com/slEdnTk3nE
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 13, 2019
— $.L.A.Y 🇯🇲 (@Slay_Bailey12) June 13, 2019
— Cody DiStefano (@CDiStefano31391) June 13, 2019
Me not pic.twitter.com/0I0KjEWGpx
— kepa (@arrizabalagy) June 13, 2019
— Tseels (@SeelTeam6) June 13, 2019
Although some gracious blues were happy to see the Belgian fulfilling his dream…
Finally, you’re living your dream man… You will be missed
— Joseph Adeyinka (@JosephAdeyinka8) June 13, 2019
We are happy for him, we will never be able to thank him enough for what he did at Chelsea
— @therealBossYaLa (@bossYala87) June 13, 2019