Belgium coach: Hazard to avoid surgery, hopeful for Euros

March 19

BRUSSELS (AP) — Playmaker Eden Hazard won't undergo further surgery on his right ankle, raising hopes in the Belgium squad that the Real Madrid player will be able to return to competition before the European Championship later this year.

Speaking at a video news conference on Friday, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said the medical advice “is to try and treat the injury in a conservative way” instead of surgery.

After being out for nearly two months, Hazard played a few minutes in a Spanish league game last weekend. However, Madrid said this week Hazard has been sidelined again by a muscle injury in his right leg.

Hazard had surgery on his ankle last year and doctors believe his recent string of injuries might be related to that operation. Hazard had a metal plate inserted and one rejected option was to operate again to remove it from his body.

“We are very pleased with the medical advice," Martinez said ahead of World Cup qualifying matches. “We are already working on the rehab."

Since joining Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, the 30-year-old Hazard has missed more games than he has played due to various leg injuries, including a fracture in his right foot during his first season with the Spanish club. He has scored only four goals for Madrid in 36 appearances compared to 110 in 352 for Chelsea.

“What we want for Eden is that he recovers fully," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “That is the most important thing for us, and that he does not have to go through surgery. Maybe we will have a different (recovery) plan. We want him to come back fit, completely recovered.”

Martinez said the Belgian federation and Real Madrid should now work together to ensure Hazard recovers as soon as possible.

“We all feel very positive about what is going to happen in the next few weeks," Martinez said. “Eden is in good spirits. He knows he is in the best moment of his career, we all see that when our captain is on the pitch he makes a difference, and now he is just looking forward to be fully fit."

Martinez said it would be a gamble to set a date for Hazard's return but said he feels “that this situation can be solved a lot earlier than the Euros" in June.

“He is a player who has never been injured in his career and this is a real shock, this is something new," Martinez said. “There is a lot of uncertainty around that but in terms of the injury I feel very positive that we can get to see the best Eden Hazard well before the Euros."

Belgium, which tops the FIFA rankings, starts its World Cup qualifying campaign on Wednesday against Wales before taking on Czech Republic and Belarus. Martinez included Romelu Lukaku in his squad of 33 players but the striker will likely miss the match against Wales after a coronavirus outbreak at Inter Milan.

“What matters now is the safety and the health of Romelu," Martinez said, leaving the door open for Lukaku to play in other games.

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Joseph Wilson in Barcelona contributed.

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