Real Madrid, Eden Hazard and why patience sometimes pays off
Last Friday night, Real Madrid solved several problems within their squad and dressing room, answered questions being raised about their team planning and willingness to spend and got one hell of a player in his prime for a relatively reasonable fee.
Barcelona scrambled after the Neymar deal during the summer of 2017, which skewed the market, while selling teams hiked up their prices, but Real Madrid waited. Did they really want to get involved in an arms race? Their president, Florentino Pérez, was busy trying to get funding for a new stadium and didn’t have much time or mind to start spending hundreds of millions on players that weren’t worth hundreds of millions.
Even if their squad planning was poor and the reasons behind not chasing supreme talent to get them competitive again wasn't borne of some prescient vision of the future, what we have learned is that sometimes it is better to wait.
Eden Hazard had long expressed his desire to team up with Zinedine Zidane. The club knew he was one of the many young Europeans bitten by the Real Madrid bug as a teenager growing up and smitten with one of their galácticos. And a player with white fever can be delayed when Real Madrid come knocking but he can't be stopped.
There’s a lot to be said about Hazard’s integrity. The Belgian has been aching for a move to Real Madrid since he was a kid. "I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club," he said in 2018.
Zidane longed to bring Hazard to Real Madrid too. He has long seen the attacker as an authentic galáctico and has been working on this deal for 10 years.
Hazard has scored no less than 15 goals in six of his last seven season, rarely gets injured and had 92 assists during his six years with Chelsea. Lots of players have flash-in-the-pan seasons but Hazard has been consistently brilliant long since the fizz of the rasher subsided.
Hazard arriving in his prime
We live in a world of comparisons as some new phenomenon’s stats are put beside Lionel Messi’s at the same age. The new Messi, the Chinese Cristiano Ronaldo, the Swedish Mo Salah are all bandied about like confetti. But rarely do we get to see two players in or approaching their prime seemingly heading in such different directions.
Neymar, for all his promise, and the headlines and the talk and the extra-curricular activity off the field, has seen his value plummet with other reports suggesting PSG are finally considering the possibility of selling him. He can’t stay fit and is becoming more of an unnecessary freight opposed to precious cargo.
Hazard, on the other hand, insisted on leaving Chelsea on good terms and left them with a European trophy and a man-of-the-match performance to boot in Baku.
Further examples of players forcing moves are Philippe Coutinho, who is a shell of the player he was at Liverpool when he made the Reds succumb to the pressure put on by Barça and he agitated for a move to the Camp Nou, and Antoine Griezmann, who is caught in limbo after telling Atlético Madrid he was leaving like a vagabond jumping on a train without knowing the destination.
Real Madrid fans urged their club to announce Neymar, or Kylian Mbappé, or... someone to welcome the untainted hope back that only comes with a new signing.
Instead they waited and eventually did announce Hazard, a player who can be considered a galáctico on the field and no-risk off it.
And that paves the way for another generation to be bitten by the Bernabéu bug. From the United States to Egypt, they have another galáctico to look up to. If you are good enough and Real Madrid want you, they can make it happen. That dream is very much still alive.