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Sorry I Wasn’t Listening I Was Thinking About Coding Shirt, hoodie, tank top
Last season against Manchester City, this season against Chelsea: both times, Hazard was returning from injury, not fully ready. Both times he was put straight back in the team as much for his sake as theirs, with Zidane even saying something about helping him recover; both times, Madrid went out and he did nothing. It’s absurd to ever suggest that a player doesn’t want to play well, but it’s easy to see a manager’s loyalty as unreciprocated. (And, incidentally, the idea that Zidane and Hazard come almost as a package, held at the top of the club, is not an insignificant one as the politics play out).
And all the more so when there are doubts about Hazard’s commitment, the willingness to do everything he can to perform. This is the man who admitted that he came back from the summer 5 kilos overweight, saying “when I’m on holiday, I’m on holiday.” Maybe they have been spoiled with Cristiano Ronaldo, a man as obsessive as he is missed.
Filipe Luis tells the story of Hazard at Chelsea. “Eden’s the best I’ve played with,” he told The Guardian. “He’s up there with Messi, winning games alone. He didn’t run to defend much, didn’t train well, and five minutes before games he’d be playing Mario Kart in the dressing room. He trained and warmed up without tying his laces. But he’d go out and no one could take the ball. He’d dribble past three or four. If opponents got too close, he’d just pull away, so powerful.
“Watching him enjoy football [was] sweet. So intelligent: one-two, combine, go alone; assist, score, everything. Maybe he lacks the ambition to say ‘I’ll be the world’s best,’ because he could be.”
All that reads like a eulogy, and what remains might in fact be the doubts about ambition. It is Eden Hazard’s personality, and no-one would have minded much had it come with those performances at Chelsea, when he was no different a person to how he is now, and likable for it. But it didn’t, and they do. On Wednesday especially, when he also became a handy diversion from deeper problems, when he made perhaps his greatest contribution since coming to Real Madrid: he has given them someone to blame.