Real Madrid’s Champions League exit at the hands of Chelsea dominated the morning headlines in Spain, with Eden Hazard coming in for fierce criticism for his post-match reaction.
The Belgium winger was a surprise name on the team-sheet for the second-leg encounter at Stamford Bridge, as it was his first start since the 2-1 loss to Levante on January 30.
His performance in west London was subdued compared to what he delivered on a regular basis for Chelsea, and he was subbed off in the final couple of minutes.
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At the final whistle, Hazard returned to the field and the Spanish media seized on images of him sharing a joke with Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Had Hazard delivered a stunning performance, his post-match actions would not have caused such controversy.
However, with Madrid tumbling through the Champions League exit door and the Belgian’s display way below his best, it provided ammunition for the media.
Eurosport’s Luis Villarejo summed up the mood in Spain, with Marca describing the forward's performance on the night and his two seasons in general as “total deception”.
"The problem for Hazard is that Real Madrid demands permanent high performance from your first day,” said Villarejo. “Hazard does not yet realise that this club is something very special, a world-class club that demands success.
His naive celebration at Stamford Bridge, smiling with his former team-mates at the end of the game, puts him in an uncomfortable situation, which can even open an exit door.
“He wears the number seven on his back, a holy number at Real Madrid. And Hazard must be mindful of this.”
The issue facing Hazard, as Villarejo points out, is that the Wednesday night in London was not a one-off incident.
Injuries and a lack of fitness and form have weighed him down since making the move to Madrid from Chelsea for €100 million (£86.45m) in 2019. Such a fee demands instant success and a consistent level of quality performances.
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Hazard has not produced what was expected, while it has not helped being viewed as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo who would deliver trophies and thrilling performances on a regular basis.
No player should be burdened with being the heir-apparent to one of the greatest players to have graced the game. But that is where Hazard is - he bought into it by joining Real - and he needs to begin to deliver or the criticism will only increase.
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