Some players are just destined to play for certain clubs. Neymar, for instance, had a route to the Camp Nou drawn for him almost as soon as he’d broken through as a teenager in Brazil. It is widely accepted that David De Gea, to give another example, will one day make the move to Real Madrid. Another Premier League star in west London is also apparently destined to end up at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Certainly not for the first time, Eden Hazard finds himself the subject of transfer market speculation, with Real Madrid reportedly eyeing the Chelsea attacker as their next super-signing. It has even been claimed that the European champions are willing to pay as much as £100 million to get the Belgian to the Spanish capital this summer.
“Chelsea will ask for a lot of money, I think that’s what the situation will be at the end of the season,” former Real Madrid president Roman Calderon said in a recent interview. “Chelsea knows quite well how much has been paid in the market over the last few years, with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Gareth] Bale and [Paul] Pogba – £100 million is now the bar.”
Indeed, there’s something about Hazard that just says ‘Galactico.’ Maybe it’s marketability. Perhaps the capitalist streak that saw him make the move to Chelsea in the first place, conducting the bidding process for his signature like LeBron James. Primarily, though, Hazard finds himself linked with Real Madrid because he is an exceptional talent.
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That cannot be questioned. In terms of inherent ability, Hazard is probably the best England can boast right now. When the Belgian finds his optimum level there’s very little any opponent can do to stop him. He has been a figurehead in Chelsea’s march towards the Premier League title this season and will likely be a contender for a whole host of individual awards come the end of the campaign.
Yet Hazard still has some way to go before he can truly claim to be at the level of a Galactico. Who exactly would the Belgian take the place of in the Real Madrid starting lineup should he join the club this summer? Benzema is perhaps the only dispensable prong of their attacking trident, but Hazard would hardly be signed to play as a centre forward. Instead, he would find Gareth Bale, Ronaldo and maybe even Isco and James Rodriguez ahead of him in the pecking order.
There is still an inconsistency to Hazard’s game that prevents him from being counted in the same class as Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez et al. At his best, he is as good as anyone. He has the technical ability and physicality to succeed in any league, in any country, but there remains questions over his mindset.
Playing for Real Madrid requires mental strength, and that might be something Hazard stills lacks in. Bale, for instance, has won two Champions League titles and scored 54 goals in 97 games since joining as the world’s most expensive player nearly four years ago, yet he has still found his relationship with the club’s supporters difficult at times.
Even Ronaldo has been the subject of boos and jeers from the Santiago Bernabeu over the course of his time in Spain. Hazard might find adapting to such an environment tough, given that he tends to reach top form only when truly embraced by everyone around him. Look at how the Belgian disappeared when the tough got going at Stamford Bridge last season.
The flip side of the argument poses the possibility that being surrounded by the very best might push Hazard to raise his own game. Real Madrid can have that effect on new signings, activating in some an innate motivation to live up to the club’s statute (see Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric).
But if Real Madrid are to splurge £100 million on Hazard this summer they would be paying for the player the Belgian might one day become rather than the player he is now. For all that he is one off the Premier League’s best, Hazard still has some way to go in proving himself as a true Galactico.