What has happened to Eden Hazard? Chelsea give former favourite painful reminder that grass is not always greener

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Eden Hazard shows the strain - REUTERS
Eden Hazard shows the strain - REUTERS

Eden Hazard ultimately lost faith in Chelsea’s ability to challenge the very best in Europe and yet it is the Blues and not the Belgian who will play in a Champions League final.

This was meant to be Hazard’s stage, the time for him to flick a switch on his Real Madrid career and yet Chelsea turned the lights out on their former star’s Champions League dream for another year.

By the time Hazard trudged off when he was finally put out of his misery in the 89th minute, Chelsea had secured their place in the final and it had been N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount and Timo Werner who had lit up Stamford Bridge.

Returning to what had become his second home for the first time, Hazard had been relishing the opportunity to try to remind Chelsea of the magic he produced so frequently.

But rather than being the Hazard of old, this was more like an ageing Hazard whose fleet of foot has been dulled by an accumulation of injuries since his £130 million move to Spain.

Ahead of this tie, Hazard had only managed 641 minutes of football in almost two years at Real thanks to 10 different injuries and contracting coronavirus, and it showed.

There was still the odd turn, such as the one in the first half that lured Jorginho in to earn a yellow card, and Hazard did force the excellent Edouard Mendy into a good second-half save with a well-struck shot.

But there were none of the jinking runs, the sudden bursts of pace or the footwork that left defenders struggling to stay on their feet. Rather than looking to embarrass his opponents, as he used to do, Hazard more often than not looked for one of his team-mates with a safe pass.

Eden Hazard (right) failed to get the better of Thiago Silva (left) - GETTY IMAGES
Eden Hazard (right) failed to get the better of Thiago Silva (left) - GETTY IMAGES

It appeared that his mind, as well as his body, has been understandably impacted by all the injuries as there was none of the old swagger and confidence to the Belgian’s game.

The feeling at Chelsea was always that it would take time for Real to work out what really makes Hazard tick and maybe this was the biggest reminder of all that the grass is not always greener.

In the blue corner of London, Hazard was, and in many ways still is a legend, and the 30-year-old will know that he is unlikely to ever receive such affection in Madrid.

He was willing to give up that status in order to pursue his dream of wearing the white shirt and winning the Champions League, but it is his former team-mates who now have the chance to conquer Europe before him.

Not your stereotypical superstar footballer, Hazard has been described as the worst trainer some of his former Chelsea team-mates had ever seen and his laid back attitude would, at times, drive the likes of Cesc Fabgregas mad.

Fabregas had seen, playing with the likes of Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry, what it takes to get to the very top. Hazard, he knew, had all the talent in the world but he does not possess the same drive, the same obsession to be the best.

One must now wonder whether of not Hazard really has the kind of determination and will power to fight back from his two-year injury hell and make sure that his best days were not all in blue.

Losing Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Hazard had resulted in concerns that the best foreign players had come to view Chelsea as a stepping stone on the way to supposedly greater things.

The Blues, from former team-mates to backroom staff and directors, still hold Hazard in great affection. But there will have been satisfaction gained from the fact that his underwhelming return offered the strongest possible evidence that Chelsea have got over their break-up rather better than he has.

Hazard may well wake up wondering whether, in a football sense, he will find true love again.

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