He has only started two matches for Real Madrid since January, the last being a 2-0 Champions League semifinal defeat to Chelsea on May 5, after a series of muscular injuries severely limited his impact in 2020-21.
“I’m only myself when I can enjoy myself on the pitch. That hasn’t happened in the last two years at Madrid,” Hazard told Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad. “If you have one or two injuries you can flip the switch, you recover to come back stronger, but if it’s five, six, seven it’s much more difficult mentally. But I keep going.”
The 30-year-old’s debut season at the Bernabeu was affected by two ankle fractures — the first in November 2019, before a second which required surgery in March 2020 — which saw him play just 16 La Liga games, scoring once.
The 2020-21 campaign was just as frustrating for the midfielder, as hamstring, calf and thigh muscle injuries left Hazard unable to find his best form.
“It didn’t occur to me for a second that it would be better for me to leave,” Hazard said. “I won’t leave there as a failure. I only want to show that I’m made for Real Madrid. The last two years have been difficult, I’ve been at Madrid without really being at Madrid, you know… We’ve played in a stadium without fans, and I signed to play at a full Bernabeu.”
Hazard has faced growing criticism from the Madrid media, in particular when he was pictured laughing and joking on the Stamford Bridge pitch with Chelsea’s players in the moments after the loss to his former club.
“That was bad, yes,” he said. “What [Edouard] Mendy and [Kurt] Zouma said wasn’t even funny… If there was one game I wanted to win, it was against my former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. I was surprised when I saw the images. I got some phone calls [from Real Madrid teammates]. But honestly it’s a nice group of players, that’s one of the reasons I want to stay, the atmosphere is impressive.”
When he returns to Madrid later this summer, Hazard will link up with new Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who praised the forward in his introductory news conference earlier this month.
“He’s a top player,” Ancelotti said. “He’s had problems, the first season he had an important injury… this could be the year for him to reach his potential.”