After Real Madrid‘s horrible 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals all anyone could do was talk about Eden Hazard. Before the match, Madridistas conjured up dreams of an Hazard fairytale at Stamford Bridge, returning to his old stadium in the XI and giving Real the attacking boost they needed en route to a decisive victory that would punch Madrid’s ticket to another Champions League Final.
Instead, Hazard was the invisible man. Aside from a couple of a turns here and there, the Belgian did a whole lot of nothing. He ran. He truly did. But he mostly ran away from the ball and did not look big enough for the moment. Hazard did not perform like a Real Madrid superstar whom the club spent 100 million euros to sign after he conquered the Premier League.
After the game, Hazard made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Right in front of cameras, he could be seen laughing with Chelsea players. It was not a good look at all. Whereas his teammates were distressed at falling short of their ultimate goal, Hazard was having a grand old time with his buddies…on the other team.
Hazard has since apologized. We know the No. 7 is more laid-back than most Real Madrid superstars. He was never known for taking defensive duties or even training seriously at Chelsea. Yet he was easily the best player in the league and beloved by Chelsea supporters for his heroics on the pitch.
Eden Hazard is not meeting the world-class standards set at Real Madrid
The problem is that Madridistas haven’t seen any heroics from Hazard. He’s had a couple of good games against lower-tier sides like Huesca, Eibar, and Alaves, but Hazard has yet to provide a standout, big-game performance in a win for Real Madrid.
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And that’s a HUGE problem. If you come to the Santiago Bernabeu with a lot of fanfare and a high price tag, you are expected to perform. And if you don’t, Madridistas will let you hear it.
Playing for Real Madrid means playing for a club that aims to excel at the highest possible sporting level every year, so if you fail to do so, you are, in the eyes of fans, taking a spot away from someone else who could. And you are holding back a team of world-class players by failing to do your part. It’s not that the fans hate a specific player, but it’s that they have expectations and don’t want to see the great work of 8 men undone by 3 players who don’t belong.
Right now, Hazard is in the group of players who don’t look like they belong. Injuries have been the biggest issue for him, but after a certain number of matches, fans start to get impatient.
Because once Hazard is on the pitch and isn’t even playing as well as 20-year-olds Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior, the fans get restless.
Eden Hazard doesn’t need to be vilified, but he does need to perform
Look, all this stuff about him laughing with Chelsea players is not great and might even speak to him missing that specific mentality needed at Real Madrid. But I don’t want to exaggerate.
Because at the end of the day, there is only one issue with Hazard. Performance. We know what he can be. We know what he is capable of. And let me tell you something about Madridistas, they do not give a damn about “could” and “should” and “what if?”
They care about how you perform when the whistle blows and if you can live up to the weight of the No. 7 jersey. They want you to elevate your level like Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, Fede Valverde, and Ferland Mendy have to meet the standards set by Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, and so many other living legends.
Eden Hazard, for all his talent, hasn’t produced much of anything for Madrid. As The Guardian’s Sid Lowe noted, Hazard’s scored as many career goals for Real Madrid as Gareth Bale has scored in finals. Four.
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All will be forgiven and forgotten if Hazard performs on the pitch. Again, it’s not a question of “if” he’s capable or not. He is. The question is, are we going to see it? Because if the production isn’t there, Real Madrid will look for someone else. They are more patient than you think, but they are under pressure to win a trophy every year. So they don’t have room to wait forever.
As Hazard said in his thoughtful apology, there is still a La Liga title to fight for. Let’s hope Hazard can contribute to the fight and prove to his critics, within and outside of Madrid, that he has everything it takes to be a big success with Los Merengues.