Eden Hazard has always privately said that the day he no longer enjoys playing football, he will quit. That day has now arrived.
On Tuesday, the 32-year-old decided to end his 16-year professional career because the game was no longer fun for him. It hasn’t been for a while… probably since joining Real Madrid from Chelsea for €100 million in 2019.
The main reason to play winger is always to have fun. Since he was a child playing in the garden of the family home, all he wanted to do was enjoy himself. So it’s no surprise that in his retirement message on social media, he noted that he had “realized his dream of playing and having fun on pitches around the world.”
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Despite his recent injury problems at Madrid, Hazard has left a legacy as one of the best forwards to have ever played in the Premier League. He is a Chelsea legend and a Belgium legend. The stats speak for themselves: 110 goals in 352 games for his club, as well as two Premier League trophies, two Europa Leagues, an FA Cup and the individual accolades of PFA and FWA Player of the Year in 2014-15. For his country, we can add 33 goals in 126 games as a “golden generation” of star players, finishing third at the 2018 World Cup.
Hazard was an artist; One of the best dribblers of his generation. In his prime, he was unplayable at times. With a low center of gravity, skill on the ball, speed, intelligence and a strong desire to win, opponents often cannot get to him, taking the ball away from him — as shown in the goals. He scored while running from the halfway line against Arsenal in 2017.
A football talent from a young age, he was discovered by Lille’s scouts in 2005 and made his professional debut for the club two years later when he was 16. In Ligue 1, he is still one of only two players to have been crowned young player. The other is Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe — the player of the year and multiple player of the year.
In 2011, his talent propelled Lille to a league and cup double. But he was too good for Ligue 1. He scored 20 goals in 38 league games in his final season before moving to Chelsea in 2013 for around €40m. The move made sense as he joined a team where he would have an important role and where he would be the main man. And he was the main man – winning loads of trophies and terrorizing Premier League defenses across the country.
But Hazard only cared about matches and winning. The training was not for him; He didn’t like it and didn’t put in much effort. He was a big-time player who certainly excelled at big events domestically. It was his The existence of a thing.
Alas, there was no big event when he moved to Real Madrid in 2019. Madrid was his dream and club legend Zinedine Zidane (who was then manager) his childhood idol. But his four years in Spain were an absolute nightmare. There were hurts, misunderstandings, disappointments, poor decisions and failures, as well as the feeling that he had thrown in the towel too easily. One statistic that bears out his injury woes more than any other is that he never played a single minute. El Clasico The opponent is against Barcelona. A big-time player — one of the top 10 most expensive of all time so far this year — has never been involved in the biggest game.
Hazard reported for his first preseason training session overweight. He did it every summer in his previous teams, because holidays were sacred to him, but the club never forgave him and he never recovered. In Madrid, he stopped feeling like a footballer. Despite winning more trophies (La Liga, twice; Copa del Rey; Spanish Super Cup; UEFA Super Cup; Club World Cup; and Champions League), they never felt like it. That was the beginning of the end.
Some might say that his four years at the Bernabeu ruined what he had achieved at Stamford Bridge; Some might say that his lack of good performances in the Champions League showed his limitations. But comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are unfair – they were machines, although he was a romantic who saw football as a game, not a job.
Perhaps this was part of his career problems, as he clearly lacked the drive and ambition of Messi and Ronaldo. Nevertheless, Hazard was a definite “flare” player; A showman and entertainer. Fans buy match tickets to see him! Sometimes he makes the impossible possible. Former Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry once said: “I would look at him and think: ‘Why on earth is he trying this?’ And then he’ll succeed, and I’ll be like: ‘Ah yeah, right!’
Football needs these types of players and although Hazard hasn’t been able to show his true potential for a while, he deserves his place among the greats for spreading the fun and joy of the game throughout his career.