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Real Madrid & Hazard: Why he and Chelsea fans risk a nasty, bitter summer

COMMENT: So is he ready... Eden Hazard? Are you ready... Chelsea fans? Are you ready for the nastiness. The bitterness. The smashing of a legend. Of a legacy...?

...because that's what lies in wait for Hazard, Chelsea and the club's support at the end of this season. That is, if the Blues hero. The man of seven seasons. Of five trophies. That is, if Hazard chooses to push through with plans to engineer a move to Real Madrid this summer.

No matter how Hazard behaves. No matter how good his relationship with the higher ups. This isn't going to be smooth. Real will make sure of that. Even if Chelsea agree, out of goodwill and for good service, that Hazard can go. Real won't make it easy. Not with less than a year on his contract. Florentino Perez, the Madrid president, won't just demand a discount from Chelsea. He'll also demand Hazard and his minders - which are basically his family, primarily Dad, Thierry - that they put pressure on Chelsea. That they force his employers of over seven years to bend to Real's will.

And with that, of course, will go the Belgian's reputation. His relationship with the support. And his status as a Blues great.

This isn't hyperbole. Real have previous - and a lot of it. From Thibaut Courtois and Neymar these past six months, way back to Gareth Bale and Luka Modric's defections from Tottenham six and seven years ago. None of it reflected well on Real. And in three of the four cases, none of it ended well for the player and the relationship with their club.

Of course, Courtois' antics still ring fresh in the minds of Blues fans today. Indeed, he was at it again just last week, insisting it was Chelsea - particularly Roman Abramovich's trusted lieutenant Marina Granovskaia - who broke promises about allowing him to leave for Madrid last summer. It wasn't his fault he had to go AWOL after the World Cup. It wasn't his doing that he skip preseason training - all the while being paid by the club - and wait for Chelsea and Real to reach an agreement over a fee. Oh, and of course, none of this behaviour had any influence on the price Chelsea were forced to settle upon...

Just a few months later and Nasser Al-Khelaifi had had enough. The PSG president, knowing full well Real were in contact with the father of his world record signing Neymar, went public with his frustrations - and an ultimatum for Florentino.

"It is not fair," barked Al Khelaifi, "that other clubs or someone talks to our players, we do not like this and we have spoken at the time with Real Madrid.

"We respect Real Madrid and its president, Florentino Pérez, but I think it is important for all of us not to work behind the scenes."

Now clearly, the likes of Javier Tebas, the LaLiga's president, and his Barcelona counterpart Josep Maria Bartomeu, have a point when talking about PSG and black kettles. But that still doesn't give Real free rein to skirt FIFA law - no matter how enjoyable the irony is.

Go back further and spare a thought for Andre Villas-Boas. As Spurs manager, he didn't experience the Madrid effect once - but twice. And in back-to-back seasons. Like with Courtois, Real stuck to their M.O. - and the players never went off script. Both Modric first, then Bale the following season. Both declared publicly a demand they be allowed to leave for Madrid. They then downed tools. Went AWOL. And in jumped Real, leaving a blindsided Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, being forced to negotiate a price with both parties knowing full well there was zero option of him walking away from the deal.

"I think Modric is wrong. This will go against him," Villas-Boas reacted to stayaway Modric back in the summer of 2012. "He has worsened the situation with what he's doing and now the chairman [Daniel Levy] is very angry."

A year on and AVB was saying this about Bale: "This (transfer) could have happened in a different way. The fact that he hasn't turned up … I don't think it's the correct behaviour. But in the end, it's a position of pressure and a statement from the player or whatever that means. It's a position they chose to take."

Cycle forward to August last year and if Maurizio Sarri had had time to get his feet under the table, you fancy he'd have been repeating AVB's words about Courtois. He may still get his chance - if Florentino gets his way come June.

For his part, Hazard has already announced he's made up his mind. "I know what I am going to do. I have made a decision", he told French media at the beginning of the week. This before giving an English press interview about how much he was enjoying playing under Sarri, "Sarri is a great manager. He's an old man but the way he thinks is the same way I think about football".

So basically, yeah, your guess is as good as mine. But what we can be sure of is if he does choose to jump, it's going to be an ugly fall. Nothing in Real's previous dealings, particularly under this president, suggests otherwise.

The question is: is Hazard... the homebody... the team player... is he ready for such a war?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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