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Eden Hazard on Real Madrid past and present

After his summer switch to Madrid, Eden Hazard recalled his memories of the Galácticos and outlined his hopes for the future.

Eden Hazard in the interview chair
Eden Hazard in the interview chair UEFA via Getty Images is running a series of UEFA Champions League Q&As every Friday in the coming weeks.

In August we spoke to Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard as he started the latest chapter of his career at Real Madrid following his transfer from Chelsea. What makes this club so special, both in general and for you in particular?

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Eden Hazard: I think it was the fact that it's renowned in France and the fact that [Zinédine] Zidane played at Real when I started my football career. So, for me, it was "the" club. Then there's the white shirt and the stadium: it's the best stadium. So it's everything, really. On top of that, when I was a kid I supported Real so I also wanted to come to Real for that reason.

It was 17 years ago that Zidane scored that goal against Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League final. Do you remember where you were?

I don't think I saw it live because we didn't always watch everything. We watched a lot of football but we didn't always watch the Champions League and, at that time, I had to go to bed at half-time. But I saw it the next day and re-watched it plenty of times in the days after that. I think Thorgan and I tried to copy it out in the garden too, but we never managed it. As a Real supporter since I was little, it's a really good memory.

Do you have any other specific memories of Real from when you were young: particular players, particular matches that stood out for you, apart from that goal?

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I remember the players more than anything: Raúl González was playing at that time. I think when they had the Galácticos that was really something. When Luís Figo was there, Ronaldo, it was great to see. We were drawn to the club because they had all those stars and they were playing together. When you are little and you see all the stars playing together at the same club, it's amazing.

What sort of goals have you set for yourself coming here? You've said you knew you wanted to come here for a while. Now that you're here, do you have a specific aim in mind?

No, I've always worked on the basis of just working it out on the pitch. I'm not going to start saying "I have to do X, Y or Z." Of course, when you're at a club like this, you need to win and you have to score. But, for me, I've always behaved in the same way and that's what I'll still try to do.

I try to enjoy myself as much as possible on the pitch and I know that if I enjoy myself out on the pitch, the results will follow. So, at this great club, I want to try to get people to see me more, to win matches, to score goals. It's a little bit like what I did at Chelsea, but doing it all over again at Real and going one better if that's possible.

Do you feel the strong connection between this club and the UEFA Champions League? Do you feel it straight away when you get here?

Watch goals from Real Madrid’s 13 European Cup wins
Watch goals from Real Madrid’s 13 European Cup wins

Yes, you feel it just from knowing that the club has won it the most. I think that when you're at Real Madrid, each year – even though it's only my first year – when you speak to people, when you speak to the supporters, they expect you to win the Champions League that year. That's why I think there's so much expectation in the Champions League and why they've won it more than the others.

What was it like to be presented in front of 50,000 fans? That must have been quite something.

Yes, it was. When I arrived, I was more at home out on the pitch because it's what I'm used to when I come to a stadium. It was more about having the press conference when you arrive at the stadium. You see all the supporters, all the screens, you see the club president giving a speech, all the cameras are on you.

I don't think I can even describe it in French – I don't think there's a word for it! It feels quite exhilarating and it's enjoyable, but you also feel a bit impatient because when you see all those people you want to get playing as quickly as possible. I'm best when I let my feet do the talking out on the pitch.

How important was it for you to leave Chelsea on top, with a trophy and with your head held high?

How Chelsea won the 2019 Europa League
How Chelsea won the 2019 Europa League

At that time, I still didn't know that I was leaving. I hoped I would be leaving because I'd done my time at Chelsea but I was thinking that, if it was my last match [the UEFA Europa League final], of course I wanted to leave, not as a hero as such, but as a leader of the team and the supporters.

If we hadn't won, I think I would have been disappointed and the club would have been disappointed, but that wouldn't have taken away from the seven fantastic years we spent together. But I went out on a win and it was also a London derby against Arsenal. That was important for the supporters as well as winning a trophy. When you're at Chelsea, you expect to win trophies so we were happy that night!

I know that England is very much the home of football but Spain isn't far behind. What's the most exciting aspect of the game over here?

I think that here the fans are really fanatical. In England, you don't get so many fanatics. People there like football and everyone is really into their football, but they're not so fanatical about their teams.

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At times when I was at Chelsea and we lost, we were disappointed as were the fans, but you never got the feeling it was a disaster. That's different here in Spain. If you lose a game, you'll see what it's like. Football is everything for them and it's down to us players to give our all.

What areas of your game have you still got to improve on?

A whole lot of things. Purely the fact of playing in a different league will mean that I'll learn new things. The playing style is a bit different, as is the preparation for the games. There are things you can learn every day. It's difficult to say whether I can improve technically or tactically. You can and have to always learn things – that's why we play the game. I've said to myself that I'm going to learn things gradually.

This interview was conducted in August.