Carlo Ancelotti is spot-on about what Eden Hazard is missing

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

Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard has yet to find the back of the net in the 2021-2022 season in any competition. The Belgian attacking midfielder/winger has recorded a pair of assists between LaLiga and the Copa del Rey, but aside from creating chances through simple passing, Hazard has not made much of an impact on Real offensively. And most Madridistas are growing frustrated that a player wearing the No. 7 shirt is only capable of impacting matches in a basic manner.

Hazard is capable of so much more. When Real Madrid paid 100 million euros to Chelsea in what was essentially an arranged deal before the final year of Hazard’s contract with the Blues began, very few fans criticized the move despite the price tag. They saw a record of supreme consistency in the Premier League, where Hazard was unquestionably the best player in the league for a handful of seasons.

Briefly, Hazard showed that quality to start the 2019-2020 season after needing a couple of months to integrate into the squad. But after bossing games in October and November, it is not a stretch to say that his entire Madrid career fell apart at the seams in one single instance – a poor tackle from Thomas Meunier in a Champions League clash with PSG that Real, to that point, were dominating behind the industry of Hazard.

Since then, Hazard has been in and out of the lineup, with but a flash of genius here or there interspersed with far more anonymous matches and injury reports. Hazard has been left to pick up the pieces of a career that just may no longer be there- an ultimate dream of succeeding at the Santiago Bernabeu, shattered years before it could technically even begin.

Carlo Ancelotti says Eden Hazard must trust himself

And you can see how this would weigh on his confidence already before entering the pitch. Once on the pitch, it is not uncommon for any player – no matter how skilled or agile – to doubt themselves and their own body. To fear the one-on-ones they once thrived off, in a league where players are not protected by referees far too reluctant to draw firm lines on what is fair and foul – what must be cautioned and what does not merit a booking.

Carlo Ancelotti was asked about Hazard, yet again, at the press conference before this weekend’s LaLiga battle with Valencia. And in the conference, he made one particular comment about the Belgian that stood out.

So much of the discourse around the word “trust” has been focused on Ancelotti and whom he trusts – and whom he does not. Most of this discussion leads to laughable debates about agendas and bias, all ultimately levied at a man who has guided Real Madrid to first in LaLiga thus far.

Ancelotti knows what he is doing. And when it comes to the psychology of relating to players, understanding where they are coming from while still exuding a firm hand of leadership, Ancelotti is A1.

The advice for Eden Hazard is more complicated

So when he says Hazard does not yet trust himself, we must listen. There is merit, logic to what he is saying about the No. 7. And any Madridista who has watched Hazard this season knows there is something missing from his game. There is a hesitancy to unleash in front of goal – one unfamiliar from a player with this kind of quality and pedigree. And for all the years of embarrassing the Premier League’s most egotistical and physical defenders, Hazard seems scared to take on even Alcoyano’s players.

Trust yourself.

How many times has someone told you that as advice? And it surely was not easy advice to follow. It is quite vague, indeed.

Now imagine directing this advice to someone dealing with Hazard’s pressure, expectations, and, yes, injuries. The injuries and difficulties that still no doubt weigh on him when he walks onto the pitch, even as he does his best not to think of the maniacally laughing pink elephant in the room.

Eden Hazard needs time and grace, but will he ever get them at Real Madrid?

While the message from Ancelotti to the press on Hazard is sensible and almost certainly on the nose in its accuracy, the guidance behind-the-scenes must be more complex, more careful, and, yes, more time-consuming.

Hazard’s issue is not one that can be resolved overnight. It will take time and the right team of people around him to support him so that a breakthrough can happen. And that breakthrough may never happen. It may just be something we all must come to grips with – that the Eden Hazard of old is truly gone, at the age of 31.

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But where there is hope, there is a way. Ancelotti, Hazard, and Real Madrid have not given up yet. Maybe, just maybe, Hazard can trust his body, and his body can deliver for Los Merengues just as it did for years on end in London. Madridistas, for all the Twitter talk and the veneer of pessimism it creates, haven’t given up yet either.