Eden Hazard can rewrite his legacy by firing Real Madrid to Champions League final
It’s safe to say that Eden Hazard’s reputation is about as damaged as it has ever been.
Billed as the best in the world not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo just a few years ago, Hazard’s move to Real Madrid has almost destroyed his legacy. By costing the best part of £150m and failing to stay healthy, he’s on track to go down as perhaps the worst blockbuster transfers of all time.
A big performance on an enormous stage is the only way for Hazard to save his time at Real, and fortunately for him, platforms don’t come much better than Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea.
There’s no denying that Real aren’t at their best right now. They’re behind in the La Liga title race and probably should be out of this European tie already. Chelsea could have bagged three of four early on in the first instalment and will be confident of repeating that performance again on Wednesday.
It doesn’t happen too often, but this is one of those cases in which Real are actually the underdogs.
Karim Benzema stood up to be counted last week with an excellent solo goal to keep Real alive, and Hazard needs to do the same here to have any chance of justifying his hefty price tag and saving his legacy.
Hazard needs to send Real fans (and the wider world) a reminder of why many felt he deserved to be in the Ballon d’Or conversation more than he was. It seems like Chelsea fans are the only supporters who will fly his flag anymore, with the Blues remembering his seven years of exquisite service at Stamford Bridge.
It’s hard to blame anyone for what has gone wrong with Hazard. Fans are entitled to be disappointed with their latest Galactico, but at the same time, the Belgian’s rotten luck means he deserves a little more understanding.
Fortunately, there’s optimism that this could be a turning point for Hazard. Reports suggest he has finally shaken off the problems which have plagued his time in Madrid, and what better way to kick-start a new era than with a starring performance on your old turf to seal a spot in the Champions League final?
There’s something almost poetic about the fact that this opportunity will come against Chelsea. The Blues did so much for Hazard’s career (and he more than repaid the favour), and they could now be the ones to save him.
Sure, it might be a while before we see anything close to pre-2019 Hazard. The man’s just turned 30, hasn’t started back-to-back games since January and has more injuries than happy memories of the last two years. There’s so much work to do, it’s not even funny.
For now, it’s all about baby steps. It’s about rebuilding that reputation, and there’s no time like the present.