I’ve always appreciated Hazard, says Real Madrid boss Zidane

Zinedine Zidane has admitted his admiration for Eden Hazard as Real Madrid continue to be linked with the Chelsea forward.

Zidane’s side will host Eibar on Saturday but attention in the Spanish capital is already turning to the summer transfer window.

Madrid are expected to undertake a major rebuilding job after a disappointing season, with the European champions starting the weekend 13 points behind rivals Barcelona in LaLiga.

Chelsea v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – Stamford Bridge

Eden Hazard has been linked with a move to Real Madrid (Ian Walton/PA)

Asked if Madrid might seek to lure Hazard from west London, Zidane said: “I will not give my personal opinion about what may happen because the season has not ended, but I’ve always appreciated him.

“I’ve seen him a lot since I was playing in France. He’s fantastic.”

An overhaul of the squad will come with Zidane as yet unable to transform Madrid’s fortunes since his return as coach. They go into Saturday’s game on the back of a 2-1 loss away to Valencia on Wednesday night.

Madrid’s season is effectively over with nothing left to play for, but Zidane – who experienced a similar situation when Barca took the title by 12 points in 2006 – told his players they must play with pride to see out the campaign.

“I am not inside each player’s head,” he said when asked about motivation. “What I see in training is that they have the pride to finish the season well.

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“Our defeat (to Valencia) says the opponent played well, but we did good things too.

“I’ve lived it as a player. It’s not easy. You have to accept it when things like this happen.

“The best way to get out of it is to work, to be happy when you win matches even if there’s nothing at stake.”

Madrid will take on an Eibar side comfortably in mid-table with their place in LaLiga effectively secure for another season.

They could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas, but coach Jose Luis Mendilibar expects his players to want to show their best on the Bernabeu stage.

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“Playing at the Bernabeu is enough motivation in itself,” he said. “If you are not motivated there, they will put you away.

“Of course they can get you even if you are not motivated. They are not enjoying their best moment but they still have very good players.

“Even when they are not playing well, at home they usually win and score many goals.

“But we are going well and have an opportunity to pick up more points.”

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Mendilibar insisted he would not adapt his tactics for the match, and still intends to send his players out to press Madrid high up the pitch.

“We defend better when we put the line higher up,” he said. “The moment we move it back, it is harder to press and it creates more space between our lines for the opponents to work in.

“We cannot and should not change anything.”

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