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Eden Hazard to Real Madrid: a transfer almost 10 years in the making | Sid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane identified the Belgian in 2010. Finally he has his man and Hazard will start despite the heftiest competition

“I would take Eden Hazard with my eyes closed.” Zinedine Zidane’s words are not from this week or last; they’re not from last year, the year before, or even the year before that. Real Madrid’s manager said that in April 2010, almost a decade ago, when the Frenchman was just about to return to the Bernabéu as presidential adviser and Hazard was 19 and playing for Lille. He was also, Zidane said, “the star of the future”. Now, aged 28, he is Madrid’s present, not just their latest galáctico but their first for five years. He has been a long time coming.

This is chronicle of a signing foretold, one in which both sides have been open about their mutual attraction. There’s an honesty about the way Hazard has spoken and a certain loyalty too – not just to Madrid or to Zidane, but also to Chelsea. He made no secret of his wish to go and although his public pronouncements may not always have pleased, they were invariably framed with respect, a promise to do things the right way and a willingness to stay: he didn’t rebel as Madrid would have liked, and that’s partly why it’s taken so long. Instead, he embraced his commitment to Chelsea, insisting they would decide. And then he waited.

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