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Chelsea legend Eden Hazard announces retirement

Former Chelsea and Real Madrid star Eden Hazard has announced his retirement from football with immediate effect, bringing the curtain down on a glittering career.

The 32-year-old enjoyed a 16-year professional career and made over 600 appearances across spells with Lille, Chelsea and Real Madrid, as well as representing the Belgium national team on 126 occasions.

He had been without a club since leaving Real over the summer and has called time on his career, saying now is the "right time" to call it a day.

Lille love affair

Hazard was born in the Belgian town of La Louviere near the French border and he began his career with Ligue 1 club Lille, making his senior debut aged just 17 against Nancy in November 2007.

Quickly establishing himself as a first-team regular, Hazard underlined his credentials as one of Europe's top talents, helping Lille claim the double during the 2010/11 season as they lifted both the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France.

The talented winger also picked up the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award in the summer of 2011, an accolade bestowed on him again the following season, but by then, it was a case of when, and not if, he'd be moving onto pastures new.

Stamford Bridge legend is born

Chelsea won the battle to land Hazard's signature in the summer of 2012, with the then European champions paying Lille a reported £32m to secure his signature during the same summer they also signed his brother Thorgan from Lens.

While Thorgan has gone on to carve out a stellar career and play alongside Eden for Belgium, he never made a first-team appearance for Chelsea, leaving his older sibling to take all the plaudits at Stamford Bridge.

During his seven years in West London, the elder Hazard won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, an EFL Cup and two Europa Leagues, scoring twice in the second of those European finals against Arsenal in 2019 - a match that proved to be his final appearance in Chelsea blue.

As well as team honours, Hazard's individual performances were also often recognised, as he was named Chelsea's Player of the Year on four occasions, while he was voted the PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2014/15.

During his final season with Chelsea, Hazard also became just the fourth player after Thierry Henry, Matt Le Tissier and Eric Cantona to score and assist 15 or more goals in the same Premier League campaign.

In total, Hazard scored 110 goals across 352 appearances for Chelsea and he sits ninth on the list of the club's all-time record scorers. 

Real Madrid dream turns sour

It seemed at one stage that Hazard would see out the rest of his career at Chelsea, but the lure of Los Blancos has proved too much for many a player before him and his head was well and truly turned when they came calling.

Hazard joined Real in June 2019 for a reported €100m, which at the time placed him second behind only Gareth Bale as their most expensive signing in history.

Following his exploits with Chelsea and the hefty price tag around his neck, much was expected of Hazard in Madrid, but fitness issues and a drop in form saw him score just seven goals in 76 appearances for the club across four seasons.

Hazard did win eight major honours during his time at the Bernabeu, including the one Champions League success of his career, but his contract was mutually terminated at the end of the 2022/23 campaign.

The Belgian made what proved to be his final appearance in professional football during Real's 1-0 La Liga victory over Getafe in May, a match in which he was replaced after 61 minutes.

A case of what might have been with Belgium

Hazard's retirement had seemingly been on the cards since he called time on his international career after the World Cup 2022 - a tournament that had seen Belgium unceremoniously crash out during the group stage.

That was Hazard's fifth and final major tournament appearance for the Red Devils having formed part of their 'Golden Generation' alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

With such quality within their ranks, De Rode Duivels were expected to secure a first major international title at some stage, but they fell short at the World Cups in 2014 and 2018, as well as the European Championships of 2016 and 2020.

It was in 2018 where Belgium came closest to going all the way, eventually finishing third after being narrowly edged out by eventual champions France in the semi-finals.

Hazard contributed three goals in Russia and picked up the Silver Ball as the tournament's second-best player, but he could not get his country over the line.

During a 14-year international career, Hazard made 126 appearances for his country - the fourth-most in Belgium's history - while he also sits second on their list for all-time record scorers on 33 - only Lukaku has more.

All in all, Hazard will go down as one of the greatest players in both Belgium and Chelsea's history, although he may also be left wondering what might have been.

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