Jean-Michel Vandamme (Sedan, France, 1957) can be considered the ‘discoverer’ of Eden Hazard. Vandamme returned a few months ago to work as a youth director at Lille, a club where he has spent most of his life, 40 years as a coach and then in different positions in his player factory. In 2005 it was the main person in charge of the integration of the Real Madrid midfielder in the training system of Los Mastines. He knows perfectly the development of the Belgian player, he has followed his career with a perspective that probably almost no one has. In 2011, at just 20 years old, Eden was part of the Lille that managed to lift their first league title since 1954. “That team had 50 percent of homegrown players. Now we have won another Ligue 1, but there was hardly anyone from the quarry “says Vandamme, who after working with Brujas has returned to the headquarters to put order again in one of the most important factories in Europe. Apart from Hazard, in Lille the talent of Ribery, Cheyrou, Makoun, Cabaye, Debuchy, Rami, Gueye, Digne, Origi, Pavard …
“Eden was from La Louviere, on the other side of the Belgian border but very close to here,” Vandamme evokes. “He came to our quarry when he was 14 years old, He was a very small and thin boy who at first did not seem to stand out for almost nothing. But he had one very important thing: soccer inside his head. More or less, we took it out of there and in a few years he made technical gestures better and faster than anyone. At 15 he had to be stopped, because he was already beginning to gain muscle and could be injured. With 17, when he debuted with the first team, already many of us here thought he was going to become one of the best players in the world. “
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* Data updated as of October 21, 2021
And he was, without a doubt, when he signed for Real Madrid in June 2019. But in the white team its quality and performance seem to have been diluted despite the fact that it is still only 30 years old. Injuries haunt him. With almost three contract seasons still ahead, his transfer or exchange for other footballers appear in more and more lies. Is there a future for him at the Bernabéu? Vandam gives me some clues: “He has football. He sure can still succeed at Real Madrid. The thing with Hazard is that he needs to feel like a leader, but I’m not talking about a locker room leader, but above all a technical leader. He has to think that it is important in the mechanism of the game, Eden must be given the key to the game. You need it. If not, he will end up leaving Madrid “.
“It is not a question of forcing Ancelotti or another coach to change the system for him. In Belgium, Hazard continues to perform and does so together with another very important player like De Bruyne, they do not take away space but rather complement each other. I don’t know why that can’t happen to him in Madrid, it shouldn’t be a problem because there are colleagues of his, like Benzema, who are specially made to get along with him. They can get a lot out of each other, “adds one of the Belgian genius’s football ‘fathers’.