Zinedine Zidane has made not secret of his admiration for Eden Hazard the Real Madrid manager is looking to freshen up his famous BBC forward line Star man Cristiano Ronaldo is not performing at the levels he has done before, the Portuguese is scoring, shooting and creating less, albeit still more than most, Even given this fall off, will Zidane risk moving on from one of the world’s greats?
In 2010, Zinedine Zidane said of Eden Hazard: ‘He’s very good and is going to get even better. I would take him to Madrid with my eyes closed.’
In 2015, Zidane added: ‘After [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Hazard is my favourite player. It’s incredible to watch him play. Do I see him going to Real Madrid? Ask someone else. I love the player and that’s all.’
In 2017, Zidane is Real Madrid manager and wants to freshen up his forward line of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale – by making Hazard their new Galactico.
Hazard is set to be offered an improved contract by Chelsea this summer. He is currently paid £200,000 per week and could be taken up to £300,000.
For the sake of comparison, Ronaldo, whose current contract runs until 2021, is on £365,000.
The former Manchester United forward signed for Madrid in 2009 and has stayed at the top since, defying the ageing process.
Ronaldo is 32, Benzema is 29, Bale is 27, Hazard is 26.
While Messi was said to have the natural ability, Ronaldo worked for it. Though his role has changed over time, he has shown he can still be Mr Reliable when required.
Ronaldo beat his Barcelona counterpart to four Ballon d’Ors, including last year’s. In 2016, he also won the Champions League with Madrid and the European Championships with Portugal.
Now, though, as he settles into his thirties, time appears to be catching up with Cristiano. That’s what the statistics say, anyway.
Ronaldo is scoring 0.89 goals a game in 2016-17 – his worst ratio since signing for the Spanish club.
That may be because he is shooting less than ever before too. Ronaldo currently averages 5.86 shots a game – and it is the first time he has been below 6.
Assists are also down. He currently sets up 0.23 goals a game – his worst ever and exactly half of how many he set up in 2014-15.
Then there’s chances created. Ronaldo currently creates 1.03 a game – again, a career worst at the club. Last season was his second worst, too, as he created 1.44 a game.
In touches, Ronaldo’s statistics show a season-by-season decline. In his first year in Spain, he touched the ball 72 times a game. The years after: 65, 61, 58, 57, 55, 48. Now, it’s 45.
He has scored in 59.1 per cent of the games he has starred in this season – more than his 55.6 per cent in 2015-16 but less than the 71.4 and 73.3 in the campaigns before.
In a nutshell, Ronaldo is scoring, shooting, assisting and touching the ball less than ever before in La Liga. He is creating fewer chances, too, and Zidane may feel his BBC need freshening up.
Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that only by Ronaldo’s standards is all this considered a decline. Compare the 32-year-old to the Premier League’s top players, for example, and he is still one of the game’s greatest.
In the last three seasons, Hazard has got a goal on average every 267 minutes, while Ronaldo is on 80. Hazard also assists every 483 compared to his counterpart’s 256.
The Portugal superstar scored twice against Hungary during the international break and said previously in November 2016 that he feels he has 10 years left in him.
Ronaldo may well be declining but he is still up there with the world’s best, and looks to be leading Madrid to another title.
Zidane’s team are top of La Liga by two points and have a game in hand over Barcelona ahead of a summer transfer window that is bound to be interesting.
It remains to be seen how Hazard would fit into their frontline if he did decide to go to Madrid and what it would mean for Ronaldo.
The man who now has a statue and an airport named after him still has plenty to offer, but it is down to Zidane whether he feels it is time to break up that BBC of his.