Eden Hazard has finally explained why he’s no longer the player he was at Chelsea.
The Belgian winger left Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019 after seven years at the club, in which we won two Premier League and Europa League titles and picked up the PFA Player of the Year award in 2015.
Now regaining form and fitness with Belgium at Euro 2020, setting up Kevin De Bruyne’s winner in their nation’s victory over Denmark on Thursday, Hazard has, at last, revealed what’s been behind his dramatic drop-off.
The 30-year-old has made just 43 appearances over two seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring five goals and laying eight assists but has picked up one La Liga winners medal.
Speaking about his struggles, Hazard said: “I never doubted my qualities, but whether I would be 100% fit for the European Championship was going to be a question.
“I broke my ankle three times, it will never be the same as 10 years ago,” the ex-Lille wonderkid revealed.
“But I know that when I am in shape, that I can prove myself on the field and that’s what I’m working on now.”
Hazard has been a second-half substitute for Belgium in both of their Group B games so far at the European Championships, while his brother Thorgan – injured for tomorrow’s clash with Finland – has started each match.
Eden may not play 90 minutes until the knockout stages, acknowledging he’ll need to be at his best when the time comes.
“I’m not 100% yet, but I’m ready to start. But that was the plan, to bring me along gradually.
Now managed by Carlo Ancelotti at club level and Roberto Martinez internationally, Hazard has endured a particularly frosty relationship with one of his former bosses, who has recently rekindled the pair’s rivalry.
Hazard may have had one of his best individual seasons under Jose Mourinho in 2014-15, but the Portuguese gaffer left the Blues just a few months later on far from the best of terms with the wide man.
Speaking on talkSPORT earlier this week, Mourinho said: “The truth is what you see from him, he is an amazing player with awful training.
“You can only imagine what he could be with a super professional attitude in training,” explained the newly-appointed Roma manager.
“In the end, he is an amazing kid, he is an incredible family man, he looks like he doesn’t belong to this generation of players, he’s very quiet and is totally focused on family, on kids, on parents, on a very quiet life.
“But he gets onto the pitch every morning and… he doesn’t work much.
“When he gets onto the pitch you don’t see the reflection of a week of work, you just see a reflection of his talent.”
Mourinho then went on to explain what has prevented Hazard from reaching the pinnacle of the game.
“He is this amazing player and you can imagine if he was a top professional,” his former gaffer added.
When he went to Real Madrid I thought wow, this guy is going to the biggest club in the world and is going to feel this huge pressure to be always at the top, this guy is going to win the Golden Ball, because he is amazing.
“But in terms of his fitness, his speed, his condition, he would be a much better player [if he trained properly],” stated the two-time Chelsea boss.
“What you see is just the talent that got Eden to where he is.
“He’s had more injuries at Real Madrid, at his time with me at Chelsea he didn’t, he might have had one but it was nothing big.
“But in Madrid he got into this negative dynamic with his injuries and that’s probably affected him.”
Belgium face Finland tomorrow evening at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg, Russia hoping to win their final group game and continue their 100% record at the tournament.