As the transfer season begins to take shape, theScore is handing out grades to the teams involved in the biggest dealings of the summer.
Eden Hazard finally got his “dream” move.
After flirting with Real Madrid for multiple seasons, the Belgian winger’s switch to Spain was completed Friday, with Chelsea reportedly receiving an initial €100 million for their prized attacker. That fee is said to include a hefty add-on package that could push the final price into the €150-million realm.
Hazard undoubtedly makes Real Madrid better.
The 28-year-old, who’s coming off a Premier League campaign in which he scored 16 goals and created 15 more for the Blues, becomes an instant lock as the attacking focal point of Zinedine Zidane’s side.
He’ll put full-backs on their heels with his shot fakes, change of pace, and mesmerizing dribbling ability; he’ll bounce off defenders with his low center of gravity (read: bulky backside); he’ll tee up newly minted striker Luka Jovic and old stalwart Karim Benzema on the regular. The notoriously fickle Santiago Bernabeu faithful should fall in love with his panache.
In a vacuum, it’s a fantastic signing. When you have a chance to sign Eden Hazard, you do it. But did Real Madrid actually need him?
Vinicius Junior was one of the lone bright spots during a miserable 2018-19 campaign. The 18-year-old, who plays primarily on the same left wing that Hazard likes to occupy, looks destined for superstardom. Marco Asensio is still only 23. Isco can operate in many of the same spaces as Hazard.
There were other, more pressing needs to be addressed. A rapidly aging central midfield needs to be reinforced in a bad way, for example.
Perhaps that issue will be sorted out. Real Madrid print money, and if their other transfer business thus far is any indication, they’re going to be liberal in spending it over the next couple months. Once all the dust settles, we may very well look back on this move as the crowning achievement of a wildly successful overhaul.
On its own merits right now, though, it’s impossible not to at least acknowledge that such an enormous fee could have been spent a little more wisely.
This was a tough spot for Chelsea.
Hazard wasn’t shy about his desire to leave west London for the Spanish capital. He was coming up on the final year of his contract, and, at 28 years old, was approaching the perilous point in a footballer’s career where resale value begins to take a nosedive. All of these factors gave Real Madrid the upper hand at the bargaining table.
Under such circumstances, raking in roughly €100 million – and likely much more once potential bonuses hit – is a masterstroke.
Enthusiasm over the influx of cash is tempered, however, by a simple fact: losing Hazard makes Chelsea significantly worse right now. Christian Pulisic’s services have already been secured – he’ll join the club this summer – but unless their transfer ban is overturned, the Blues are going into the campaign without a truly transcendent talent who can, and often did, take over matches all by himself.
Countless times in recent seasons, Chelsea’s tactical approach amounted to “give it to Hazard and wait for him to conjure something up.” He often did.
With their get-out-of-jail-free card now running wild in Madrid, and electric young winger Callum Hudson-Odoi nursing a torn Achilles, this squad is suddenly lacking up front with no sign that reinforcements are on the way.