With Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid agreed, Zinedine Zidane’s summer rebuild is well underway.
Los Blancos already have Luka Jovic and Eder Militao heading in to revitalize a stagnant, underperforming squad and now, they’ve signed arguably the Premier League’s best player in a deal which could reportedly be worth in excess of £150m.
But with such a big name switching between two massive clubs, there are bound to be a number of winners and losers from such a deal. At Squawka, we’ve picked out the biggest ones.
Winner – Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid really aren’t messing around, are they? Jovic, Militao and, now, Hazard all signed up for a combined fee which could easily exceed £200m when add-ons are considered.
Of course, Los Blancos finished eight and 19 points behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively last season. They also crashed out of the Champions League to Ajax at the round-of-16 stage and lost in the Copa del Rey semi-finals to Barca, so they definitely need the investment.
Even if Madrid don’t sign another player in this window (not likely), Zinedine Zidane now has a legitimately brilliant squad to pick from, with some truly world-class players. Hazard will likely be the poster boy, while Jovic will surely add a much-needed clinical edge to their strike force.
But beyond those, Karim Benzema still has immense quality, Vinicius Jr continues to get better and better and the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can only benefit from Hazard’s arrival. Zidane is a Champions League expert but it’s easy to forget he also guided Madrid to a La Liga title in 2016/17. Now, he has a group of players to bring around those glory days once again.
Loser – Maurizio Sarri’s replacement
Maurizio Sarri looks set for a return to Italy with Juventus and whoever comes in to replace him sure has a job on their hands now. Hell, Sarri knows this squad inside out and would struggle now if he were to remain.
Transfer ban or not, replacing a player of Hazard’s quality seems like an almost impossible job. Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo are arguably the only players who could fill the void and Chelsea don’t have that sort of ace up their sleeve.
The Blues rallied to a third-place finish in the Premier League last season – as well as winning the Europa League – but ended the campaign a massive 25 points behind second-placed Liverpool. Without Hazard, a season of consolidation looks to be on the cards, with the ultimate goal being to make sure Chelsea remain in the top four and don’t disgrace themselves in the Champions League.
The problem is, we all know how the powers that be at Chelsea feel about consolidation. They don’t feel, they just swing the axe. To compete with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City, as well as a Manchester United that are sure to strengthen, with a squad which includes the ever-ageing Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud is going to require a few minor miracles from any incoming manager.
Winner – Callum Hudson-Odoi
While Willian and Pedro are wingers past their best, Callum Hudson-Odoi is one nowhere near his peak but already brilliant. The 18-year-old’s season was cruelly cut short and had he been available or England, their Uefa Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands could have been very different.
Sarri was often criticised for not giving Hudson-Odoi enough starting opportunities but nevertheless, he still managed five goals across 11 appearances in the Europa League and FA Cup. That was enough to earn the youngster his first senior England caps, links to Bayern Munich – which are unlikely to go any further with the sale of Hazard – and predictions of a very bright future indeed.
Even with Hazard gone, Chelsea may not need to invest in an ace-loaded sleeve, they already have one. The Belgian’s departure will give Hudson-Odoi far more first-team opportunities which can only accelerate his development as a top-class player.
Loser – Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz
There’s no doubting Real Madrid really, really needed Hazard and the rest of their summer investment. But my word, they have some talent stacked up at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Last summer, they re-signed Mariano Diaz for a £20m and started him… three times. Following the announcement of Hazard’s deal, images quickly surfaced of his name on the back of Real Madrid’s no.7 shirt, a number currently occupied by Mariano. Hazard’s favourite no.10 shirt is already taken by Modric but he won’t mind taking up the shirt previously worn by Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul and, therefore, push Mariano even further down the pecking order.
Meanwhile, Marco Asensio started 17 La Liga and Champions League games on the left-hand side of attack for Los Blancos last season. However, he managed just one goal and three assists during that time. Hazard, meanwhile, managed 16 goals and 10 assists for club and country last season when starting in that position.
Asensio’s time with Real Madrid has been plagued with inconsistency and while he’s still only 23, Los Blancos need success now and his numbers simply don’t match up to those of Hazard.
Winner – Premier League defenders
While neutrals, purists and lovers of good football in the Premier League will be mourning the loss of Hazard, defenders from the English top flight are likely to be planning a big, celebratory bash in honour of his departure. At long last, they won’t have to deal with the little Belgian, twisting, turning and taking their limbs to within an inch of breaking point just trying to keep up.
Eden Hazard completed 916 take-ons during his seven Premier League seasons, more than any other in the division in that time.
Here are his favourite opponents. 🕺 pic.twitter.com/XBDRwO3GTV
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 8, 2019
Of course, they’ll still have to deal with Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling and the rest but Hazard scored 85 goals during his Premier League spell and last season, nobody completed more dribbles than his 138. In fact, nobody even came close – Wilfried Zaha was next with 113.
Messi completed 134 dribbles in La Liga last season – the second-highest in the division – and now, Spanish top-flight defenders must plan for taking on another dribble king.
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Loser – Christian Pulisic
When you have a £58m fee against your name and are seen as your nation’s next big hope on the international stage, it’s safe to say there’s already a large amount of pressure on your shoulders. Now, though, things just ramped up a notch for American winger, Christian Pulisic.
The 20-year-old’s move from Borussia Dortmund was confirmed in January before spending the rest of the season on loan in Germany. Now Pulisic arrives at Stamford Bridge without the safety net Hazard would provide, no teething period and no time to adjust.
Pulisic started just nine Bundesliga games last season thanks to the emergence of Jadon Sancho but completed 4.1 dribbles per 90 minutes – only Sancho (4.14) had a better rate – and created 0.49 big chances per 90 minutes, second only to Mario Gotze (0.64). In comparison, Hazard managed rates of 4.25 and 0.55, respectively, in those particular metrics, meaning a huge creative gap is going to be left in Chelsea’s team.
Across his appearances for Dortmund and the USMNT this season, Pulisic has been used on the left, right, through the middle and even as a sort of ‘false full-back’, pushing into midfield to create. Wherever he plays for Chelsea next season, that £58m fee is going to have to be repaid in double quick time to make sure the Blues don’t fall too far behind their direct rivals. That’s a lot of pressure on a 20-year-old.