When Eden Hazard finally agreed to sign for Real Madrid earlier this month, it was a transfer that had been ten years in the making.
Zinedine Zidane had commented on the Belgium midfielder when he was still a teenager at Lille that he would sign him given the chance.
Now Hazard has finally been bought — for around €100, according to reports — and Zidane has finally gotten his man.
But Real Madrid endured rather than enjoyed last season and finished in third place in the league, 19 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona.
Will Eden Hazard be able to reverse the club’s recent domestic fortunes and bring the La Liga title to the Bernabeu?
Latest La Liga Betting Odds
Although Atletico Madrid finished second last season and has consistently included itself in the battle for Spanish soccer supremacy in recent years, the bookmakers don’t look past Barcelona and Real Madrid as the options for the La Liga winner.
Here are the latest betting odds, from Betway, for the outright winner of the 2019/20 La Liga title.
As you can see, Barcelona is considered the odds-on favorite to win its third successive title, and the rumors of Antoine Griezmann’s departure from Atletico for the Catalan club have caused the “other” Madrid side’s price to drift, too.
But Real Madrid’s odds of winning the league for the first time since the 2016/17 season are not too far away from Barca’s, and this must have something to do with the caliber of player that Los Blancos has already signed this summer.
What Does Hazard Bring to Madrid?
Eden Hazard is rightly considered one of the very best players in the world and would be able to fit into any lineup or formation, but Zidane will probably look to play him on the left side of a front three.
Ironically, Vinicius Jr. — the teenage Brazilian who joined Real from Flamengo at the start of the year — was just about the only bright spot from last season and played in that position. But there is no way that Madrid will buy Hazard and not play him.
With the other signings that Real has made already, Hazard will be asked to complement an out-and-out striker like Luka Jovic while using his outstanding close control and possession skills to work chances for himself.
Hazard’s low center of gravity and quick bursts of pace enable him to go past opposing defenders as if they are not there, and he should be able to pick up even more goals than he managed with Chelsea when he was employed as a false nine.
Luka Modric can still pull the strings in the middle of the pitch, so Hazard will be given more opportunity to be part of a successful attacking unit rather than be the only option, as it seemed at times at Chelsea.
What Will Stop Hazard Winning a La Liga Title Next Season?
In one word, Barcelona. The Catalan club has now won the last two La Liga titles and is the odds-on favorite for next year, too. With Lionel Messi still showing why he is arguably the greatest soccer player that has ever lived, any title challengers need to work out how to stop him before they have any chance of glory.
Hazard will need to perform against the rest of the teams in the league as well, obviously, but in the El Clasicos, he will have to control the game and make the most of the chances he gets.
Incredibly, Real Madrid lost 12 league games last season and at one point went five games without a victory, culminating in a humbling 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona. Hazard needs to bring a new determination to the team, in the mold of Sergio Ramos, which goes back to the Madrid of a few years ago when defeat was just not acceptable.
Real cannot lose to clubs like Alaves and Levante — as it did last season — and expect to be champions. It might not be good for Spanish soccer as a whole, but the two games against Barcelona need to revert back to effectively being the title deciders, and Hazard can help make that happen.
What Is Needed for Madrid to Succeed?
This seems like a changing of the guard at Real, started off by Ronaldo’s move to Juventus last summer. Eden Hazard is just part of the new-look 11, but the squad still has a lot to do to keep up with its most bitter of rivals.
Karim Benzema actually enjoyed a very good season but might find that his appearances next season are more sporadic. The addition of Luka Jovic can be seen as a statement of intent that this is going to be a new Real Madrid. The Serbian striker looked very dangerous for Eintracht Frankfurt last year and will be expected to start as he left off there.
For some reason, Zidane obviously doesn’t think Gareth Bale can fit into his system, so whether the Welsh international stays at the club or not, it is unlikely that Hazard will need to fit around him.
Real Madrid also conceded 46 goals in the league last season — ten more than Barcelona and an astounding 17 more than Atletico. But the club has already moved to shore up an ageing defensive line. Eder Militao is joining from Porto, and Ferland Mendy has just been bought from Lyon for around €50m. Those two should be able to add pace and youth to the side.
There are bound to be other signings before the new season starts, including a possible move for Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen. But there does seem to be the makings of a side that will be in a better place to challenge Barcelona next season, and Hazard is a major part of that.
Will Real Madrid Win La Liga Next Season?
There is still a full summer of transfer business ahead, and both Real Madrid and Barcelona are usually heavily involved in that. But Zinedine Zidane is starting to form a new side to challenge the champions.
Eden Hazard is the crown jewel in that new team, but he will be just one of the reasons if Real Madrid does manage to win the league next season. He is undoubtedly one of the most creative attackers in the world right now, but anyone can have an off game. Just look at Hazard’s own 2015/16 season.
Hazard will have a lot to say in any future Real success, but just as important is how seamlessly Luka Jovic adapts to La Liga. Those two together could form a lethal partnership for Madrid, but if one or both of them makes a slow start, then Barcelona will be able to put together an insurmountable lead.
Eden Hazard will have a positive effect on Real. But I feel that it may take a few seasons before the La Liga title makes its way to Madrid. In the meantime, we’re all in for a treat watching Spanish soccer.