Eden Hazard’s last chance at redemption

Roberto Morales

Madrid, Jun 9 (EFE).- From reigning in the Premier League and maximizing his potential as Belgium’s lynchpin at the 2018 World Cup, Eden Hazard has seen the dream of playing for Real Madrid turn into a nightmare plagued by injuries, relapses and a performance far from his lofty standards. Euro 2020 is his chance at redemption, the opportunity to shine again in an environment where he is a leader – that is, if his conditioning allows him to.

Voted the most iconic player in the history of the Belgian national team, no one hesitated to wait for Eden for a major event in which Belgium aims to make the final leap with its golden generation, which includes the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku.

The coach, Spain’s Roberto Martinez, and none of his teammates, minded waiting for Hazard despite his 10 injuries and his positive coronavirus test that ruined his second season at Real Madrid.

In their minds, his brilliance is still dominant, a privileged technician who leaves opponents behind with the ease of his speed and dribbling, handling both feet with dexterity. His vision in the last pass and his punch placed him among the best in the world when he was a leader at Chelsea.

“When I saw Zidane it was as if he played soccer with his hands. Eden is the same. The ball sticks to his feet and it’s almost impossible to get it away from him,” said former Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.

Hazard made his debut as a child with the Belgian senior team. At the age of 17 years and 316 days, against Luxembourg, he became the eighth youngest player in his country to make his international debut. Son of two footballers, Thierry Hazard and Carine Vanderbecq, his great inspiration in a family that includes three brothers who also play football professionally, the years of his youth in France did not generate doubts when it came to choosing which country to represent.

He already stood out at Lille, a club in which year after year he showed a growth that augured his dimension. Being the best player in French soccer was his launchpad to Chelsea, where he became one of the great world stars. He propelled Belgium in 2014 to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup that they were returning to after a twelve year absence.

Captain since Euro 2016, when they were disappointingly eliminated by Wales in the quarterfinals after scoring a goal and dishing out four assists, the 2018 World Cup served Belgium to launch a message under the leadership of Eden and the 2020 continental event arrives at the right moment of maturity to aspire to the European throne.

Winning an international title is the great challenge for Hazard, who only has two Europa Leagues won with Chelsea on his CV. He arrived at Real Madrid with the objective of winning his much sought after Champions League, with the heavy burden of responsibility of taking over from Cristiano Ronaldo. He has never lived up to the expectations.

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