EDEN HAZARD finally looked back to his best on Sunday after returning to the Real Madrid starting XI following a lengthy injury lay-off.
The 29-year-old had only featured twice since November, when he was injured by international team-mate Thomas Meunier.
Hazard has admitted struggles with his diet and fitness – but has managed to get into shape during the coronavirus-enforced break in the season.
He was thrown straight back into the starting line up after recovering from an ankle injury – and more than played his part in Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Eibar at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
The Belgian unselfishly squared the ball for Sergio Ramos, who put Los Blancos into a 2-0 lead.
And his rasping shot was then eventually cleared only as far as Marcelo, who put his team 3-0 up before taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hazard was substituted on the hour mark, but Zidane confirmed that it was just precautionary – and that he was pleased with his big-money signing’s display.
He said: “He played for an hour, and played well, and he took a hit, which will do him good.
“He’s had a knock, a scare, but that’s football. He was fine at half-time, he was happy and he’s not afraid. He is happy with what he’s done and we’re happy with his work and that of the whole team.
“We have players up top who can always make the difference. I think when Hazard laid it to Sergio, he could have scored himself too, but he’s altruistic, so he gave it to Sergio. It’s unselfish and I love to see things like that.”
Prior to the match, former Madrid and Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa had been purring about Hazard’s return.
He told Real Madrid TV: “I imagine that, with Marco [Asensio], there will have to be more care, giving him minutes little by little.
“You have to be more careful with him than with Eden [Hazard], who has returned like an airplane.
“He is going to win us many games.”
Last night’s victory saw Madrid keep pace with rivals Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, with Quique Setien’s side having routed Mallorca 4-0 the previous evening.
So with ten games to go, Madrid remain two points behind their bitter adversaries.
But Zidane will be hoping that a fit-again Hazard could make all the difference in the title race, as it prepares to enter its final chapter.