‘I’ve always appreciated him… he’s fantastic’: Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane admits admiration for Eden Hazard amid rumours Chelsea star will make summer Bernabeu move
- Eden Hazard has been linked with a move to Real Madrid for some time
- Now Real manager Zinedine Zidane has admitted his admiration for Chelsea star
- Madrid are expected to overhaul their squad following disappointing season
- They sit a distant third in the La Liga table and are out of Champions League
Zidane’s side will host Eibar on Saturday but attention in the Spanish capital is already turning to the summer transfer window.
Madrid are expected to undertake a major rebuilding job after a disappointing season, with the European champions starting the weekend 13 points behind rivals Barcelona in La Liga.
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has admitted his admiration for Chelsea star Eden Hazard
Belgian star Hazard has been linked with a summer move to the Bernabeu for some time
Asked if Madrid might seek to lure Hazard from west London, Zidane said: ‘I will not give my personal opinion about what may happen because the season has not ended, but I’ve always appreciated him.
‘I’ve seen him a lot since I was playing in France. He’s fantastic.’
An overhaul of the squad will come with Zidane as yet unable to transform Madrid’s fortunes since his return as coach. They go into Saturday’s game on the back of a 2-1 loss away to Valencia on Wednesday night.
Madrid’s season is effectively over with nothing left to play for, but Zidane – who experienced a similar situation when Barca took the title by 12 points in 2006 – told his players they must play with pride to see out the campaign.
‘I am not inside each player’s head,’ he said when asked about motivation. ‘What I see in training is that they have the pride to finish the season well.
‘Our defeat (to Valencia) says the opponent played well, but we did good things too.
Zidane keeps close tabs on Gareth Bale during training on Friday ahead of the Eibar fixture
It was another miserable evening for Real in midweek as they went down 2-1 at Valencia
Real currently sit third in La Liga, a distant 13 points behind champions-elect Barcelona
Real Madrid fixtures
All league fixtures
Saturday Eibar (H)
April 15 Leganes (A)
April 21 Athletic Bilbao (H)
April 25 Getafe (A)
April 28 Rayo Vallecano (A)
May 5 Villarreal (H)
‘I’ve lived it as a player. It’s not easy. You have to accept it when things like this happen.
‘The best way to get out of it is to work, to be happy when you win matches even if there’s nothing at stake.’
Madrid will take on an Eibar side comfortably in mid-table with their place in LaLiga effectively secure for another season.
They could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas, but coach Jose Luis Mendilibar expects his players to want to show their best on the Bernabeu stage.
‘Playing at the Bernabeu is enough motivation in itself,’ he said. ‘If you are not motivated there, they will put you away.
‘Of course they can get you even if you are not motivated. They are not enjoying their best moment but they still have very good players.
The Real Madrid team train ahead of their Saturday night league fixture against Eibar
Hazard celebrates scoring Chelsea’s second goal in their midweek win over Brighton
‘Even when they are not playing well, at home they usually win and score many goals.
‘But we are going well and have an opportunity to pick up more points.’
Mendilibar insisted he would not adapt his tactics for the match, and still intends to send his players out to press Madrid high up the pitch.
‘We defend better when we put the line higher up,’ he said. ‘The moment we move it back, it is harder to press and it creates more space between our lines for the opponents to work in.
‘We cannot and should not change anything.’