Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has said he is “convinced” Eden Hazard can still make an impact at the club as the winger prepares to make his latest return from injury.
Hazard joined his teammates in training on Wednesday after missing the last six weeks with a thigh problem.
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He’s expected to feature in Madrid’s La Liga match with Elche on Saturday, as well as their Champions League round-of-16 second leg with Atalanta next week.
“He looks good to me physically and in terms of morale,” Zidane said in a news conference on Friday. “He has got over all these injuries, the discomfort he had. Now he will be with us and I hope he can play and get some continuity.”
Hazard has suffered a series of injuries that have limited his impact at the Bernabeu since joining from Chelsea in the summer of 2019.
In his first season — which Hazard called “the worst of my career” — he endured two ankle fractures, limiting him to 16 league appearances and just one goal. This campaign he has suffered another ankle injury, a hamstring strain and this latest thigh problem, as well as testing positive for the coronavirus.
“Eden has had his issues, it’s true,” Zidane said. “But he’d never had a long-term injury before his first at Madrid… He has a long contract and I think when he’s in top form he’ll be impressive. I’m convinced of that.
“It’s true that [Real Madrid fans] might have doubts. But for any player, when they have an injury, it’s really difficult. He will do really well here for sure.”
Zidane also said captain Sergio Ramos was likely to feature on Saturday, after recovering from knee surgery.
Ramos revealed on Thursday that there is “no news” on the renewal of his Real Madrid contract, which expires in June.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Zidane said. “What we want is for Sergio to continue here, he is an important player for us. I want him to stay, as coach that’s all I can say.”
The coach denied defender Raphael Varane is considering leaving the club this summer — he said”I think he’s very happy here” — and was also asked about Cristiano Ronaldo, after reports that agent Jorge Mendes had spoken to Madrid about a potential return from Juventus.
“You know what Cristiano is for Real Madrid,” Zidane said. “What he did, the affection we all have for him, not just me as coach. He made history here… A lot of things are said, but he’s a Juve player and I have to respect that.”
Madrid go into Saturday’s game with Elche two points behind rivals Barcelona, and eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.