den Hazard may regret leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid in 2019 – but he should still be praised for chasing his childhood dream after he had become a Blues legend.
Hazard has announced his retirement from football at the age of 32 after injuries took their toll on a mercurial talent who was arguably the best player in the Premier League before his Stamford Bridge exit.
After he moved to Real for £124million four years ago, he was never the same player. A cumulative 18 injuries and 89 matches missed for club and country caused Hazard, who should have been a star, to become a pariah at the Bernabeu.
Hazard had made the move in an attempt to win the Ballon d’Or and emulate his hero Zinedine Zidane. It didn’t go to plan.
Had he stayed at Chelsea, he would no doubt have faced less pressure but still the same injury problems he had in Madrid, which were perhaps caused after years of heavy tackles in English football.
Jose Mourinho was prophetic in 2015 when he said: “People [are] in love with football in this country – people must be in love with Eden Hazard.
“The way, match after match, he’s being punished by opponents and he’s not being protected by referees, maybe one day we won’t have Eden Hazard.
“It’s one, two, three, four, five, ten aggressive fouls against him. They kick and kick and kick, and the kid resists.
“He’s a very honest guy in the way he plays, but that’s another problem.”
Chelsea ultimately enjoyed the best of Hazard’s more than 700 career appearances, which were characterised by his match-winning displays and world-class ability to dribble past opponents.
It is while in west London that Hazard was mentioned in the same breath as both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Notoriously a poor trainer behind the scenes, some believe if Hazard applied himself then he could have claimed at least one of a decade of Ballon d’Ors won Messi and Ronaldo.
Still, despite his inability to match the dedication of his rivals, his six major trophies and eye-catching style made him a Chelsea legend.
When Didier Drogba was asked whether Hazard would lose that status by moving to Madrid, he said: “Eden Hazard is already a Chelsea legend, whatever happens this summer.
“He won the league twice, won the FA Cup, won Player of the Year, we are talking about Eden Hazard — please!”
Hazard trained at Cobham this summer after being released by Madrid. He had offers in Belgium having been part of a golden generation in his homeland.
Having accomplished so much, early retirement is understandable even if it feels disappointing to all those he inspired throughout his glorious career.