Eden Hazard enjoyed the best years of his career at Chelsea (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)
Belgian attacking midfielder Eden Hazard announced his retirement on Tuesday after failing to find another club following his release by Real Madrid.
The 32-year-old endured an injury-plagued spell at the Spanish giants after his 89-million-pound (103 million euros, $110 million) move from Chelsea in 2019, playing just 76 matches in all competitions across four seasons.
“You must listen to yourself and say stop at the right time,” Hazard wrote on Instagram. “After 16 years and more than 700 matches played, I have decided to end my career as a professional footballer.”
Hazard had a far happier time at Chelsea, winning both the Premier League title and Europa League twice as well as the FA and League Cup from 2012-2019.
He was also integral to Belgium’s impressive run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, beating Brazil in the quarter-finals but bowing out to eventual champions France in the semi-final.
However, he was unable to rouse himself for last year’s World Cup finals when along with fellow stars Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, Hazard and a below-par Belgium exited in the group stage.
Nevertheless Hazard — who also won a Ligue 1 crown with Lille and two La Liga titles with Real and picked up a Champions League winners’ medal as an unused substitute in 2022 — was in grateful mood as he signed off.
“I was able to realise my dream, I have played and had fun on many pitches around the world,” he said.
“During my career I was lucky to meet great managers, coaches and teammates — thank you to everyone for these great times, I will miss you all.”
He thanked his clubs and the Belgian federation as well as friends, family and advisors “who have been close to me in good times and bad”.
“Finally, a huge thank you to you, my fans, who have followed me for all these years and for your encouragement everywhere I have played,” he added.
Hazard’s former Chelsea team-mates Frank Lampard and John Terry paid tribute to him.
“What a talent, and what a career… it was a pleasure to play with you, and you are a top man in every way. Good luck with what comes next,” Lampard wrote in reply to Hazard’s announcement on social media.
Terry added: “LEGEND. Enjoy retirement mate. What a player.”