Zinedine Zidane’s Eden Project: Real Madrid boss is determined to keep ‘part-time Galactico’ Hazard centre stage after his eye-catching display in win over Alaves… so, will fit-again star finally complete 90 minutes after his injury nightmare?
- Zinedine Zidane finally has a plan to get the best out of a failing Eden Hazard
- Hazard, 30, both scored and created a goal in Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Alaves
- The ex-Chelsea star is playing on the left of an attacking three but is able to roam
- Yet there are still concerns over Hazard’s ability to complete a full 90 minutes
Some critics have taken to calling Eden Hazard the ‘part-time Galactico’ in Spain but Zinedine Zidane has a plan to finally start getting the best out of his failing Belgian international.
Hazard has played on the left of a front three at Real Madrid since he arrived at the club but the French coach wants him centre stage between now and the end of the season – it worked last weekend against Alaves when he popped up with a goal and an assist and he is ready to repeat the experiment as Real Madrid take on Levante.
Madrid will still start with Hazard left of Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio on the right completing the front three ahead of tried and trusted midfield trio Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. But the 30-year-old former Chelsea forward has complete freedom to wander in field and Zidane wants him central as often as possible operating close to Benzema.
Some critics in Spain have taken to calling Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard the ‘part-time Galactico’
But the former Chelsea superstar has hit form with a goal and assist last week against Alaves
That’s where he was twice in the first half of last week’s game and from there he set-up Benzema with a deft flick and scored himself from a Kroos pass. French full-back Ferland Mendy is then left with the whole left flank to himself in Zidane’s new look system.
When Madrid start to play out from the back Zidane even wants Modric or Kroos dropping into a line with the team’s two centre backs so that the full-backs – Mendy on the left and Dani Carvajal on the right – can take positions high up the pitch as Hazard and Asensio look to support Benzema through the middle.
Zidane is determined to make the so-far disastrous €120million (£106m) gamble on Hazard pay-off. He has even jettisoned 20-year-old Brazil winger Vinicius Junior to make sure the team works around Hazard. Vinicius has not started a league game since the start of December.
Zinedine Zidane is playing Hazard on the left, with Marco Asensio (right) on the right side
Karim Benzema (left) completes the attacking trio with Hazard given licence to wander in field
Zidane has jettisoned 20-year-old winger Vinicius Junior (right) in favour of starting Hazard
That ‘part-time Galactico’ quip was the title of one column in Diario AS on Friday and underlines the huge disappointment in the way Hazard has performed so far.
His failure to be in the right shape since his arrival in the summer of 2019 has been described as ‘intolerable in an institution like Real Madrid’. Injuries have been hard on him, but the verdict has been that he has also not helped himself.
The second half of Zidane’s plan to make his Eden project work is to err on the side of caution regarding his fitness. Last week, despite how well Hazard was playing he was still taken off midway through the second half to protect him physically.
But this week, after seven days of rest because of Real Madrid having already been knocked out of the cup, supporters are expecting him not just to play well once more, but to play the full 90 minutes.
Not since November 23, 2019 has he played a full game. It was 433 days ago when he started the 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu and finished the game still on the pitch.
Fitness is still an issue, as Hazard has not completed a full 90 minutes since November 2019
Zidane (left) is determined to make the so-far disastrous £106m gamble on Hazard pay-off
It was in his next match, a Champions League game against PSG, that he injured himself after a challenge with Thomas Meunier and found himself sidelined and eventually needing surgery on his right ankle.
He has only played in 22 games since but in none of them has he played a full 90 minutes.
His most disappointing performance since then was the post-lockdown Champions League defeat away at Manchester City where he failed to stamp his authority on the game and stop Real Madrid limping out of the tournament.
That cost Real Madrid important prize money and Hazard’s failure to deliver in those big games has not gone unnoticed at the club who made him their huge summer signing a year and a half ago.
With the market deflated and Hazard’s value having plummeted since he signed they have little alternative but to hope that he can finally find his old Chelsea form. Zidane has a plan and Levante at home on Saturday will be the next test to see if it can work.
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