Eden Hazard’s dream move to Real Madrid has been nothing short of a nightmare, especially on a personal level, as the Chelsea legend has been unable to stay healthy and more importantly, unable to contribute on the same level as he had shown at Chelsea — let alone at a higher level, as he had been expected to do after his €150m move two years ago.
That had already led to growing resentment among the fanbase and the hawkish local media, but those sentiments have escalated to new and shocking heights this week, after Chelsea beat Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal, with Josep Pedrerol on El Chiringuito leading the way in a most dramatic bit of football programming in modern history, complete with true crime mystery show music.
LOOOOL they’re acting like there’s a bounty on his head now— Raf (@CFC_Raf) May 5, 2021
Hazard’s return to Stamford Bridge for the second leg was supposed to be a moment of joy. While he had just returned from his latest injury and it was just his second start since January, there was hope that back in familiar surroundings, he would help Real reach the final. Instead, apart from flashes of brilliance, he was easily contained by Chelsea — just as the rest of his teammates were outdone as well in a dominant performance by the Blues.
While criticisms of Hazard’s performances (or his apparent effort levels, especially in training — as we know) have not been off base, he provided a convenient scapegoat for all those looking for a reductive reason why Madrid were played off the Stamford Bridge pitch when he was spotted sharing a light moment with old friends Kurt Zouma and César Azpilicueta after the final whistle.
Not exactly the optics you want, especially at Real Madrid, especially after that performance.
Eden Hazard was happy for his former teammates pic.twitter.com/qhBpwODiAS— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) May 5, 2021
While scenes such as these would not play well among any fanbase, they’ve been turned into a downright scandal in Madrid. Never mind Real’s actual performance in the game, nor Hazard’s (in)famous carefree attitude!
The discord has been so palpable that Hazard has posted an apology on social media (even though he shouldn’t have to).
“I am sorry. I have read lots of opinions about me today and it was not my intention to offend the Real Madrid fans. It has always been my dream to play for Real Madrid and I came here to win. The season is not over and together we must now battle for La Liga! Hala Madrid!”
-Eden Hazard; source: Instagram
Think it’s a disgrace that Eden Hazard has friends. What a weirdo.— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) May 6, 2021
But the damage may be irreversible, even among the fickle mob. ESPN are reporting that those post-match images have generated “monumental anger” among not only the fans, but the Real Madrid hierarchy, and his teammates as well. And while that report still claims that “a slap on the wrist” should suffice as punishment, Madrid-based sources paint a much more dramatic picture.
Marca and ABC Deportes (via Football London) are reporting that the club’s patience with Hazard has reached its limit, and that he is on the market this summer at a cut-rate price of €50m, with the club eager to remove his €26m annual salary from the wage bill. The club’s anger is said to be a result of not only his antics, but his on-field performances as well. Manager Zinedine Zidane is said to be the only one still backing him, but Zidane’s own future is uncertain, as Goal and Diario AS have reported, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Hazard depart alongside him.
Of course, Eden also has a say in whether he actually wants to leave Madrid, but as we saw in the case of Gareth Bale, a toxic work environment is not the place to be. Real Madrid never looked like the ideal club for someone as nonchalant as Hazard, and while Chelsea are unlikely to be interested in bringing him back, if Eden has a chance to get out, he should certainly contemplate a transfer — for his own happiness, if nothing else, which is what matters the most in the end.
"Hazard has spent two years taking the piss out of Madrid. Two years. Kilos overweight. Unable to beat any defender. Many of you are saying, another Bale?"— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) May 6, 2021
Eden Hazard's smiles with Kurt Zouma infuriated TV host Josep Pedrerol but took the focus off #RMCF...