To turn up for pre-season slightly out of condition once, can be considered unfortunate, do it twice and questions will definitely be asked.
Real Madrid’s all-time record signing Eden Hazard appeared to be carrying extra weight in some of the images from Belgium’s training camp during the international break.
When Roberto Martinez didn’t pick the former Chelsea forward for a single game because he felt he was not match fit, questions were raised in Madrid as to why he was even there.
Shouldn’t he have been getting into tip-top condition at the club’s Valdebebas training ground under the watchful eye of Real Madrid’s fitness coach Gregory Dupont?
Concerns over the full recovery of the ankle he had operated last January increased the feeling that he has put country over club when it’s the club he owes a big debt to.
He has very little credit in the bank after a first season which produced one goal. The bad luck with injury limited his games but the return is still a poor one.
His price was originally reported as 100m euros in Spain but there have been subsequent suggestions that it is closer to 130m and could rise to 160m. A bad second season and this would be an embarrassment on the scale of Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona.
El Mundo reported on Thursday that when Real Madrid players speak off the record about the trials and tribulations of Gareth Bale they do so recognizing that no one can ever say he has not made big contributions to the club winning trophies.
Last season Madrid won the league but with a solitary goal Hazard was a mere bit-part player and he could do nothing to prevent their underperforming in the Champions League.
The feeling in the club is that his ankle problems mean he should be taking even more care of himself. And putting his trust in Real Madrid’s fitness coach Gregory Dupont would be a start.
What made things worse for the Belgium international was that while he was away Luka Modric and Martin Odegaard had pulled out of international duty to concentrate on getting right for the start of the new season.
Hazard is hugely popular at the club and his relaxed outlook is part of the reason people are so fond of him. His attitude has always been that he could start seasons slowly building up to a physical peak once competitive action had started.
His cheeky grin and his sensational football, once up to speed, have meant that approach was always accepted. But Madrid is an unforgiving environment for any player who turns the dial down from hyper for even a few weeks of the season.
Being kicked by Thomas Meunier and losing so much of the campaign last year meant his underwhelming first campaign was excused but this time the focus will be on him. And if he fails, it will be viewed as more down to a lack of professionalism and desire, than any extenuating circumstances.
One reader comment on a Marca opinion piece questioning his attitude simply said: ‘Pastries, Belgium, Madrid. In that order.’
It was a play on the ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid in that order’ that Gareth Bale was accused of, until he owned the pop at his priorities and plastered it on a flag.
Madrid don’t kick-off their season until they play Real Sociedad on September 20 but they then play Betis, Valladolid and Levante. These are four teams they should beat but four teams that will have started their season earlier and be closer to full fitness.
Then there is another international break when Belgium play New Zealand on October 8, England on October 11 and Iceland three days later.
By the time he next plays for Belgium he needs to be at full fitness or the critics in the Spanish capital will be ready to let him know all about it.
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