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The machine that was only human
A look at LaLiga

The machine that was only human

Eden Hazard will be compared to Gareth Bale as one whose career has fizzled out after his body couldn't cope anymore

Rob Palmer, Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 13 October 2023, 17:23

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Cruel but true, it's hard to argue against the label of "Real Madrid's greatest flop of all time" when assessing Eden Hazard's career in La Liga.

It's equally as accurate to describe him as Belgium's greatest ever footballer at a time when the country was ranked number one in the world; likewise, he was one of Chelsea's most influential players in the club's dominant period.

In England, he definately makes the Premier League Hall of Fame; in Spain, it's just a case of "what a shame".

He's the poster boy for a period when money was splurged on players who cost €100 million plus without any dividends: João Félix, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho all under-performed. Three are rebuilding their reputations; Coutinho has headed to Qatar.

His retirement at the age of 32 just about made the sports bulletins this week. Bear in mind he's six years younger than Luka Modrić who is still a major influence at the Bernabéu.

Hazard had no influence at his Spanish club. They signed him the season after he'd been voted as the second-best player at the World Cup, scored two goals in the Europa League final and claimed his fourth player-of-the-year trophy at Chelsea. He'd scored 21 goals in his final season and the fee the London club asked was justified.

As he was unveiled, he looked like he needed a good pre-season. It was remarked in his early games that he looked unfit. In hindsight, it was the fittest he was ever going to get.

He only played 16 games in his first season - and it didn't improve. He underwent an ankle operation after just a few months - this was the first of 18 injuries recorded in his four seasons at the club. He hadn't completed 90 minutes since December 2021.

It just shows how finely tuned the leading footballers are. It's like a thoroughbred suffering a fall or a F1 car having a crash. Hazard isn't alone in peaking early and finishing early. He's on a list with the likes of Wayne Rooney, the Brazilian Ronaldo, and even David Beckham who left Real for MLS football at the age of 32.

Individuals are built differently; the truly modern greats defy time. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Kaarim Benzema and Modrić will go down as legends because of their longevity.

Sadly, for Hazard he'll be compared to Gareth Bale as one whose career fizzled out. Neither should be remembered for their final days when their bodies couldn't cope with the demands anymore. Bale is truly one of the all-time greats in the Premier League combined with his overall achievements at Real.

Hazard was sensational at Chelsea where he was the mercurial influence behind one of the most successful periods in the club's history. He was a machine, playing over 50 games in four of his seven seasons. On top of the four club MVPs, he won the Football Writers and PFA player of the season awards. It was proven that the machine was only human after all when he flew from London to Madrid.

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