New Real Madrid star Eden Hazard insists he will bring a freedom of spirit to his new club as he prepares to play his first game for Los Blancos.
Madrid will take on Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich on Saturday (GST 04:00 +1) in the International Champions Cup at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
It may prove the first taster of Hazard’s Real career since his €100m move from Chelsea last month, having signed off at the Blues with a stunning display in the Europa League final victory over Arsenal.
Real’s attack has looked lacklustre since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer – their La Liga goal tally plummeted from 94 to 63 – but Hazard, who provided 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League for Chelsea last season, should remedy that.
While it remains to be seen how Zinedine Zidane melds him into Real’s forward line, the 28-year-old has made it clear that he plays at his best when given a free role.
“It’s just friendly games [coming up] but for me it’s going to be my first game with Real Madrid so of course I want to impress everyone: my teammates, the boss, the fans so I will try to do my best,” he said in an interview with Jay Shetty.
“I try to play freely, sometimes it’s difficult in football, but I’m the kind of player who, if he does not play freely, it’s bad.
“I like to put myself on the right [wing], then on the left, sometimes in the centre, playing by instinct. That’s football for me – instinct. I do not think about each action carefully, in a second I make the decision.”
Real Madrid’s emphatic start to this summer’s transfer market has stolen football’s attention.
An extensive rebuild promised to returning head coach Zinedine Zidane has already seen – including deals previously agreed – more than €300 million spent on the likes of Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard, promising Eintracht Frankfurt forward Luka Jovic and emerging Lyon left-back Ferland Mendy.
There is still the promise of even more to come, with links to €150m-rated Manchester United centre midfielder Paul Pogba refusing to go away.
This splurge is sure to transform Los Blancos’ expectations after they claimed just the Club World Cup in 2018/19. But how does it compare to previous ones?
We’ve looked back through the past five decades to select the most-consequential pre-season spending sprees. Here is the pick of the 2000s:
REAL MADRID (2009)
Key arrivals: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa
Honourable mentions: Roma (2000 – Gabriel Batistuta, Walter Samuel, Jonathan Zebina, Emerson), Barcelona (2003 – Ronaldinho, Giovanni van Bronckhorst (loan), Rafael Marquez), Chelsea (2004 – Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho, Arjen Robben, Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira), Inter Milan (2009 – Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Motta, Lucio)
Galacticos fever returned to Santiago Bernabeu a decade ago.
Construction magnate Florentino Perez caused a sensation around the Millennium with his policy of snaring the sport’s biggest names, beginning with the contentious capture of Luis Figo from El Clasico rivals Barcelona. The ultimate failure of the approach’s original iteration ensured his resignation in 2006, yet dire times on the pitch, envy about their unstoppable Catalan rivals and controversial election laws saw him run unopposed for the top job three years later.
Perez was announced on June 1 and within two weeks the previous two Ballon d’Or winners had been hired, with the world-record transfer mark being shattered both times. In total, more than €250m was lavished on Los Blancos – a figure no club had touched before.
Paradigms shifted as AC Milan’s majestic Brazil playmaker Kaka was first through the door for just under €67m, Manchester United’s Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo swiftly following at €94m.
HALA MADRID!— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) November 23, 2010
Injuries and clashes of style with Jose Mourinho would make Kaka’s Madrid spell unfulfilled. In contrast, Ronaldo would depart for Juventus in July 2018 after netting a club record 450 times in 438 matches and lifting 15 major trophies – he was a bargain.
The sensational recruitment drive did not stop there. Not even close.
Experienced Spain metronome Xabi Alonso was landed for €40m and Liverpool received €4.5m more for versatile team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa.
The former remained in situ during 2013/14 when the fabled ‘La Decima’ Champions League crown was secured.
Elsewhere, Karim Benzema is still expected to lead the line for Los Blancos in 2019/20. Some return on the €35m wired to Lyon 10 years ago.
This heady mixture would not turn into gold immediately. The ruthless firing of Manuel Pellegrini and hiring of Mourinho the following summer would start the path back to the unfettered glory of Zinedine Zidane’s first reign.
Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos admitted that maximum playing time is his priority going into the 2019/20 season.
The Utrera man has started just 28 matches across two full seasons in the Spanish capital despite avoiding injuries, and has been largely a fringe figure under coach Zinedine Zidane.
The Spain Under-21 international could join Milan on a two-year loan deal, with an option to buy him permanently.
“I imagine Zidane will have seen it, but he has very clear ideas and we all know his thoughts. Now it’s time to rest well, to disconnect after the season and in the next few weeks we’ll think about the future,” he said, according to Marca.
“The most important thing in life is to be happy and that can only happen by playing 40 games a year. My personal goal for next season is to play 40 games and to be comfortable at all times. Wherever it is doesn’t matter, but it has to be a place where I can feel valued.
“I the moment I have no preferred choice. What I know is that I want to enjoy next year and that I’m open to new challenges. I’d like to try new things.”