Eden Hazard’s frustration isn’t truly with Carlo Ancelotti

Real Madrid, Eden Hazard, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Eden Hazard, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

There are some people who just love conflict. They love pitting one person against another, picking a side, and watching everything burn down. And it seems as if there are people in the media and in the fanbase trying to manufacture conflict at Real Madrid between forward Eden Hazard and manager Carlo Ancelotti.

We have seen signs of this throughout the season, but things really came to ahead after Thursday night’s loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Let’s get this out of the way. You can’t scapegoat one person or even one group of players. That loss was a collective failure. Ancelotti and the players who underperformed have to shoulder some of the blame.

While I am not sure if playing Hazard would have changed the outcome, I was also puzzled to see the playmaker left out of the lineup. I mean, you’d think he would be preferred over Marco Asensio as the false nine if Carlo felt that was the best tactical approach. What about Asensio would make anyone think he would be better in that role than Eden? And as we saw during the match, Asensio looked far more comfortable after moving to the right wing than he ever did through the middle.

Real Madrid, Eden Hazard, Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid, Eden Hazard, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Carlo Ancelotti is having trouble accommodating Eden Hazard

After the match, we read a report from MARCA and related articles speaking of an increasing cold relationship between Eden Hazard and Carlo Ancelotti, with Eden becoming frustrated due to the lack of minutes.

On some level, Hazard may indeed be frustrated with Ancelotti, but I think the emotions Hazard is going through are beyond frustration with one man.

Firstly, Hazard lost his place in the XI. Not because he did anything wrong, but because a young man broke out to become one of the best players in European football. Vinicius Jr. He is the new left winger and has become vital to Real’s status as the top team in LaLiga.

Ancelotti then tried to play Hazard on the right side in the free role, but the results did not benefit Real. Hazard looked good as a playmaker, but he could not provide a goal threat or do enough offensively to justify how much accommodating this position unbalanced the formation and defensive structure.

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

Eden Hazard isn’t the only player struggling to get minutes

Real Madrid have a lot of mouths to feed. Gareth Bale still hasn’t gotten minutes since coming from injury. Peter Federico is a promising young talent who almost never plays. Sergio Arribas is in the same boat from Castilla. Luka Jovic surely has his own disappointment with the lack of minutes, though he does not play on the wing like the others. Then there is Isco, who has been arguably better than all of these players on the pitch, but, like Hazard, he is a playmaker whose role does not really exist in Carlo’s classic Madrid 4-3-3 setup.

Ancelotti could do a better job of rotating, but it is fair to say that it is hard for him to trust the consistency of any of the forwards outside of Vinicius and Karim Benzema. They are the only ones meeting the level of a Real Madrid starter.

Hazard is not the same player he once was. He can still be effective, but not as a winger. Hazard just isn’t offering the scoring threat or one-on-one skill that he once did, whether at Chelsea or in his first months at Real Madrid.

There are other issues. Real want Hazard to look good on the pitch, because they may want to sell him in order to fit Kylian Mbappe and other forwards. Hazard makes more than 20 million euros a year. They want him to stay healthy. So they are careful about which opponents he plays against.

Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid must be careful about managing these frustrations

So if Hazard is frustrated, the frustration is more general. It is with the circumstances, the pecking order, his changing skill-set, his role, the formation, and, yes, the manager. But the frustration with Ancelotti, if it exists, is more an outward reflection of what is mostly inward. Ancelotti faces the brunt of the criticism in the media in the Hazard relationship, because he is the authority figure making the calls. However, he is making the decisions based on what is before him, and what is laid out before him does not favor Hazard.

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Hopefully, Hazard can find a niche to help Madrid and leave the club peacefully this summer. Because as much as he is loved by the fans and in the locker room, these relationships have a way of devolving into acrimony if left to their own devices, even when the kindest of souls are involved. And no Madridista wants to see the vultures feast on an Ancelotti vs. Hazard drama of their own making. Because neither Ancelotti, the hero who brought La Decima, nor Hazard, a legendary player cut down by injury, deserve to be cast as villains in any story.