MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is still hopeful that Belgium forward Eden Hazard will still make an impact at the club even though he has started another season as a reserve player.
The former Chelsea player joined Real Madrid in 2019 for 100 million euros ($99.85 million) but has not met expectations, scoring only six goals and providing eight assists in 66 games across three seasons in Spain.
Hazard came off the bench for the last 33 minutes of Real’s season opener at Almeria, missed a penalty, and then played only eight minutes against Celta Vigo and did not feature on Sunday at Espanyol.
“He is not hurt, you don’t need to ask that every week. He is working well and I don’t think only three games are enough to come to any conclusion,” Ancelotti told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s match against Real Betis, their first home game of the new LaLiga season.
“I’m confident that he will have a much more prominent role than he did last year.”
Hazard has struggled for consistency due to a series of injuries that kept him from playing more than 18 games in each of his three campaigns in Spain.
With youngsters Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde gaining steam and veterans like Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz still in the team, the door seems to be closing on Hazard. However, Ancelotti was sure the 31-year-old still had a part to play this season.
“It’s not so important how many games you’re going to play, but what games you play and what you do when you play,” the Italian coach said.
“Sometimes, players who don’t play much ended up being decisive at some point. Last year’s success was largely due to players in similar situations.”
The defending LaLiga champions Real Madrid are top of the standings on nine points, level with Saturday’s opponents Real Betis, the only two teams that have started the new season winning their first three games.
“Playing our first game at home, we want to be more intense and aggressive, but our game dynamics will not change, we want to maintain the same identity,” Ancelotti added.
“Betis are in a good moment, playing well and with confidence, but we are fine.
“Now the season begins because we start playing every three days, I think our squad is ready.”
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(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Christian Radnedge)