Brits wave farewell to Hazard as Spain lay out red carpet
And if the deal goes through a red carpet welcome awaits the striker already lauded as a legend in Spain following his two-goal strike against hapless Arsenal in Baku on Wednesday.
“It’s Hazta La Vista,” wrote the Sun in characteristic style while The Guardian and The Times settled for ‘Hazard’s golden goodbye’ and the Daily Mail lingered over the player’s post-match ‘goodbye kiss’ to Chelsea fans in the Baku stands.
Speaking after the game Hazard, 28, said “I think it’s a goodbye, but in football, you never know,” unwilling to confirm that his dream to play for Real Madrid would be quickly realised.
But for the media, it’s already a done deal bringing to an end Hazard’s astonishing seven-year stint in the Premier League.
“When Maurizio Sarri allowed him to leave the pitch to a prolonged ovation, the cheering mingled with more than a few sighs,” wrote Oliver Brown in the Daily Telegraph.
“For once the joy of this Europa League triumph subsides, the club can scarcely bear to contemplate what they will be missing.”
The Sun lavished praise on a player it said came to Chelsea as “one of the most promising players in Europe” and departs as the real deal “Chelsea legend.”
The Daily Mirror said the loss of a player of Hazard’s quality would be keenly felt by the Premier League as a whole.
The Daily Mail focused on trouble ahead for Chelsea, whose joy at winning the Europa League would be tempered by Hazard’s impending departure.
“The elephant in the room, of course, is that this was a victory achieved with Eden Hazard, perhaps the last for Chelsea, and it only served to emphasise how much he will be missed,” wrote their chief sports writer Martin Samuel.
Note of caution
The Telegraph injected a note of caution amid the lavish praise, saying Hazard “will be paraded (at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu) as a successor to Cristiano Ronaldo,” but pointed out he “has neither the strike-rate nor the precision in his finishing to support such a comparison.”
Spanish sports daily Marca brushed aside negative appraisals, saluting Hazard as pure “Belgian genius,” who was coming to Spain as a “champion.”
The As daily splashed a photo of Hazard with the Europa trophy and said he had delivered a “masterclass of genius” on the Baku turf, scoring two goals and making a third.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane is a huge fan and club president Florentino Perez has spoken of his hope of bringing the Belgian who has won two Premier League titles with Chelsea to Madrid.
“He is 28 and everything points to him becoming the lynchpin of a new Real Madrid under Zidane,” said As, amid reports of an impending 150 million euro deal, making Hazard the most expensive acquisition in the history of the Spanish giants.