Real Madrid: Eden Hazard isn’t the player facing the harshest treatment from Carlo Ancelotti

Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid attacker Eden Hazard has not started in LaLiga since Sept. 19 against Valencia. His last start in any competition has been his lone Champions League appearance of the 2021-2022 campaign, a quality outing in an otherwise disappointing loss to Sheriff.

Hazard is not used to being on the periphery of a squad. Once the best player in the Premier League and a standout for Los Blancos when healthy in his first season, Hazard is now not part of the team’s best XI. At this stage of his career, his skill-set has changed, and Carlo Ancelotti just cannot find the right fit for him.

Because of Hazard’s profile and past accomplishments, people are trying to accuse Ancelotti of doing the Belgian superstar wrong. That’s not the case. Hazard’s Belgian teammate and former Ancelotti player Dries Mertens may be puzzled, and fans may be angry. But Hazard’s case is not even the most difficult one in the squad.

That distinction belongs to Isco. Like Hazard, Isco is a talented player who was key to Los Blancos in 2019-2020 and was once a top player in his own right. Isco was supposed to benefit from Ancelotti’s appointment, but, thus far, that has not been the case.

Isco has received even fewer opportunities than Eden Hazard

Whereas Hazard at least has 10 appearances in LaLiga and one Champions League start, Isco has just 166 minutes in LaLiga and zero Champions League appearances. Zero. That’s like Reinier territory.

What makes things more perplexing is that Isco has played well. He scored a goal off the bench against Mallorca, he has completed 90 percent of his passes, and he was stellar in a 3-3 draw with Levante. Even in the narrow 1-0 win over Real Betis, Isco was a positive for a Madrid side that was otherwise mediocre.

Isco should be someone valued by Ancelotti, even in a niche or bench role. No, the 29-year-old is not a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 in the modern game, but as we saw in 2019-2020, Real Madrid can still find a use for him. He was a standout in matches against the likes of Barcelona, Valencia, Osasuna, and even Manchester City.

All told, Isco has received fewer chances than Hazard, and while he has made fewer key passes on the pitch, he has played further away from goal. His dribbling, passing accuracy, and even defensive contributions have all been superior to Hazard’s.

Let’s be clear: Carlo Ancelotti is not in the wrong in any of these cases

I would not argue that Ancelotti is mistreating anyone, but if people are going to complain about Hazard’s situation, I would like to point out that Isco is in an even tougher spot. And part of that may be because there is little incentive to play him due to his contract expiring. Cynically, Real Madrid may not see the need to give him minutes or to boost his transfer value, whereas Marco Asensio, for example, could use some stat-padding in case a Premier League club wants in.

In addition to Isco, the Castilla products Sergio Arribas, Antonio Blanco, and, especially, Miguel Gutierrez (speaking of a standout from the Betis match) have more of a reason to gripe than Hazard. They have all also been less involved than the No. 7. They may not have the prestige or star power of the 100 million euro man, but they also have future upside the club should be interested in developing.

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I feel for Hazard. I really do. But fans should not try to pit him against his manager. Other players are in similar, if not tougher, situations when it comes to opportunities. Luka Jovic and Andriy Lunin, for example. But while fans may complain, you will never see Hazard be unprofessional about what is happening. He knows that this is all part of the business of football, especially at the most competitive club on the planet.