Books & Media

Football Media Watch: Hazard a guess

THIS season’s big talking point, aside from the future of Manchester United’s manager, is whether Chelsea’s Eden Hazard will leave London and join Real Madrid in the summer.

Opinions are divided about the outcome, with Chelsea’s supporters convincing themselves he will stay at Stamford Bridge, while others believing the lure of Europe’s top club will be too much for the 27 year-old from the land of Bosman to resist.

If the impish Belgian is to monetise his potential and make that career-defining move, it has to be soon. He’s in his peak period and after 28, he will not have the same market value. Yet Hazard, according to the BBC,  is “torn between a new deal at Chelsea and a dream move to Real”.

He’s still got two years of his contract to go (currently expires June 30 2020), but he has been linked with the UEFA Champions League holders for more than a year. Chelsea, apparently, want £ 200 million for him, but valuations by market experts KPMG Football Benchmark (€ 146 million) and CIES Football Observatory (€ 140 million) are much lower. Media reports suggest Real have already had a substantial bid (“monster” according to one red top newspaper) rejected.

Hazard’s indecision is either the sign of a genuine individual who knows his career is at a crucial stage or a tactic to leverage the situation and finesse a bidding war. However, The Guardian  says Hazard is not represented by a “ruthless agent” and the player is a quiet, family guy who has children who are settled in England. It is worth noting that while Cristiano Ronaldo advertises underwear, Hazard promotes Belgian biscuits!

But The Guardian  adds the time for Hazard to seal that big move is limited and he knows the Real deal could be the “last chance to secure a glamour move”.

Some people believe, though, that Hazard has never maximised his talent and this trait may keep him at Chelsea, where he has certainly been let off the leash this season. Hazard has scored seven goals in eight games in the Premier and has three assists to his credit, the best stats in Europe’s top leagues.

Michael Ballack, the former Chelsea midfielder, told CNN  that Hazard could be as good as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, while other former players have urged Chelsea to “break the bank” to keep their prize asset. Real may see him as one of the natural successors to Ronaldo in terms of branding and marketability as well as talent on the field of play.

Hazard is saying all the right things in the media at the moment, talking of his affection for his current club, but also of his desire to play for Real. “I want what’s good for me, but I want what’s good for the club, because the club has given me everything,” he told Eurosport,  who described Hazard’s dilemma as a “steak and lobster” choice.

On the BBC,  Hazard said: “Sometimes in my head, I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes, I think I want to stay…It’s a hard decision.”

But he also seems to use the media to tease his suitors. The Evening Standard  reported: “I can talk now. If they come to me, I will talk. Maybe. It is a surprise they haven’t come to me yet.”

That last statement, along with throwaways like “we will talk about my future soon” suggest Hazard does indeed want Real Madrid to come calling. Which also implies he will leave Stamford Bridge next summer, just as his team mate Thibaut Courtois did in August 2018. Perhaps.

Sources: BBC, Evening Standard, Daily Express, The Star, CNN, Eurosport, Guardian

Photo: PA

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