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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 period in which Zinedine Zidane’s team achieved no fewer than three Champions League crowns in as many years, Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018 marked the end of an era at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Naturally, the loss of the superstar left Real facing some initial problems, and in their first season without the Portuguese goal machine, Real finished a disappointing third place in La Liga and were knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16. final.
Hazard’s arrival was not a knee-jerk reaction to his bad campaign (the whites had been courting the Belgian for some time), although he was still seen as the man who would bring the spark back to the capital.
18 months later, Hazard has mustered 22 miserable La Liga appearances with the famed Madrid target, scoring just two goals in the process.
It’s true that injuries have plagued 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 semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Club on Thursday night was his fourth game in just over a fortnight, the second time since his arrival in Spain that he played more than three consecutive games.
In a week in which Zidane sanctioned Luka Jovic’s departure from former club Eintracht Frankfurt, Madrid’s attacking options suddenly look threadbare, but despite a truly abject team performance, Hazard’s display against Athletic was a timely reminder that you still have an important role to play. in the club.
The former Chelsea player looked buoyant from the start, jabbing Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon on his fingertips before a beautiful pass from Casemiro that nearly broke the deadlock, only for Hazard to stop with a challenge from last minute.
One thing that became very clear as the game progressed was that the Belgian international played with the kind of arrogance and confidence that we had become so used to seeing during his time at Chelsea.
Far from getting stuck on the left wing, Hazard crossed the line of attack throughout the game, picking up little gaps in the half-turn where he could attempt to cause damage.
He was about to help Madrid settle into the game when his clever move saw him elude the rival rear, before showing presence of mind to cut the ball to Marcos Asensio, only for the Spaniard to sound the post with the left-handed. effort.
The movement and intelligence in choosing his teammate was first class, and he truly deserved so much more.
While Zidane’s team was absolutely miserable on the night, the only thing that shone for them was Hazard’s display. It lasted just under 70 minutes, his second longest race of the season, and it was very clear that there is still magic in those boots.
If Hazard can continue to play regularly, it won’t be long before he is back in top form and can be a big part of Real Madrid’s season.