Belgium are not expecting captain Eden Hazard to sparkle in the early stages of the World Cup after hardly featuring for Real Madrid this season, wing-back Timothy Castagne said on Saturday.
Forward Hazard, 31, has had a frustrating injury-plagued three years in the Spanish capital that has seen him fail to live up to his star billing after a glorious seven years at Chelsea.
He has struggled to hold down a first team place or find his best form and has started only two Real matches this season despite starting six of Belgium’s seven matches since the end of last season.
And Leicester City wing-back Castagne says fans should not expect too much of the mercurial talent, at the beginning at least.
“For Belgium, the fans would like to rediscover the Eden of a few years ago,” sad Castagne, 27, from Belgium’s World Cup base in Salwa Beach, 90 kilometres south of Doha.
“It’s not easy to come here without any match rhythm, so it will take time.
“He won’t arrive (at his best) straight away, he won’t be amazing in the first match but bit by bit he will improve.”
Hazard was a vital piece in the Belgium team that reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia four years ago, scoring a brace in a 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia and another goal in a 2-0 win over England.
A year later he moved from west London to Madrid for a reported initial 100 million euros plus add-ons that would make him the Merengue’s most expensive signing of all time.
But the move has not played out as he would have hoped and Hazard was an unused substitute in May when Real beat Liverpool 1-0 to lift the Champions League.
Hazard admitted earlier this week that he could leave Real at the end of the season but said he still hopes to be a success in the Spanish capital.
He will need an excellent World Cup to try to convince Real coach Carlo Ancelotti to give him a regular starting spot again, or for the club to renew a contract that runs out in 18 months.
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