The Rise and Fall of Eden Hazard

The Rise and Fall of Eden Hazard

Adored by Chelsea fans, derided by Real Madrid fans, appreciated by all Premier League fans.

When Eden Hazard is one day inevitably inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, supporters will again remiss of the magic he conjured as a Blues player, netting 110 goals on his way to two top division titles.

He remains one of the players that fans compare other stars to – “who is better, Mohamed Salah or Hazard?” “Bukayo Saka or Hazard?” “Who is the new Hazard?”.

So there was a tinge of disappointment when he struggled to work it all out at Madrid. He won a Champions League title, two LaLigas, sure, but 44 starts and seven goals in four years represented a dull return.

It all came to an end in October last year. Taking to social media to announce his retirement, Hazard would hang up his boots for good – or so he thought.

Premier League legend Eden Hazard is set to return to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on Sunday for Soccer Aid

Overweight and struggling in his career, the once-superstar retired from playing in October

Overweight and struggling in his career, the once-superstar retired from playing in October

‘You must listen to yourself and say stop at the right time,’ he wrote on Instagram. ‘After 16 years and more than 700 matches played, I have decided to end my career as a professional footballer.

‘I was able to realise my dream, I have played and had fun on many pitches around the world.’

On June 9 he will lace his boots again to line up at UNICEF’s Soccer Aid. Even more poetic, he will be back at Stamford Bridge, the ground where he played the best football of his career, playing under Mauricio Pochettino in the least-likely ex-Chelsea reunion potentially ever.

It wasn’t rosy for the Belgian at the back end of his career. ‘I think I was a bit unlucky with that period with Covid, because if you want to know the real story, I went to Dallas to do the surgery on my ankle then I came back to Madrid and it was Covid,’ he told former Chelsea team-mate John Obi Mikel on the Obi One Podcast earlier this year. ‘I had two to two-and-a-half months of Covid, me at home alone, no physio to do the rehab.’

In a spell plagued by injuries, a £150million man brought in to replace Cristiano Ronaldo after seven years at Chelsea quickly turned into a disaster.

It felt like the club understood, despite their disappointment of forking out  around £400,000-per-week for almost nothing in return. Though he is regarded as one of the worst transfers in he club history, it always felt as though he would eventually work it out.

He didn’t. Speaking to Mikel of reports that he would turn up for pre-season out-of-shape, he said: ‘It was true. But me, every summer I was putting on four or five kilos because I was thinking, “You give so much for 10 months, you put your body at the highest level and people kick you, so your time off is your time off”.

‘I love everything with family and friends. If you ask me to eat something I’m going to eat. Even if I don’t like it I’m going to eat!

‘As a Belgian guy, we love beers because my country has the best beers in the world, so I’m not telling you I used to drink every day because it’s not true, but sometimes after a good game, one or two is nice.’

The forward made just 44 starts in four years at Madrid, scoring seven times in injury-hit spell

The forward made just 44 starts in four years at Madrid, scoring seven times in injury-hit spell

Hazard has made no secret that he enjoys food and beers and did not turn it down when spending time with family and friends

Hazard has made no secret that he enjoys food and beers and did not turn it down when spending time with family and friends

He went onto explain how he would sometimes hide from the ball in training. Not exactly the profile of a Madrid player.

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Hazard, often mocked for the apparent size of his back side, left Madrid for free, his contract terminated, with the club seeing little reward for the money they had invested in the Belgian.

He was linked with a return to Chelsea, going back to Lille and even playing in Belgium. But he instead took the decision that he would not play competitive football again. He recently revealed he doesn’t miss the game, and wasn’t enjoying playing it anymore.

The veteran will probably be the best player on the field when he takes on fellow former pros and a bunch of celebrities in Soccer Aid. He will be up against the likes of fellow ex-Chelsea stars Joe Cole and Gary Cahill, teaming with players including Roberto Carlos and Patrice Evra. Celebrities such as The Sidemen’s Miniminter, Usain Bolt and Tommy Fury will be sprinkled in for good measure.

Now happy and in retirement, he will light up the Stamford Bridge turf again at the weekend

Now happy and in retirement, he will light up the Stamford Bridge turf again at the weekend

A number of celebrities and former professionals will take part in Soccer Aid this weekend

A number of celebrities and former professionals will take part in Soccer Aid this weekend

It wasn’t the fairytale career many had expected for Hazard. He won the trophies, but failed at Madrid, failed with Belgium’s golden generation and it will always, unfortunately, be a career of what might have been.

Chelsea fans – and the English public – won’t care about that this weekend, though. Expect Hazard to light up the Stamford Bridge turf one last time. 

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