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Monday Musings: The World’s Most Expensive Benchwarmer

Eden Hazard played well in the season opener vs Almeria, but his on-field status does not correlate with his annual wages.

Real Madrid v Liverpool FC - champions league 2022 ‘s Final Photo by CROCHET / Photonews via Getty Images
Matt’s Monday Musings: A series with no rhyme or reason — just consistent thoughts on all things Real Madrid released every Monday. Some weeks may be long form, others just short anecdotal thoughts. Either way, I’ll be posting reflective content on the current, past, and future on-goings of the club:

Last night, Eden Hazard played well coming off the bench to help Real Madrid overturn a goal deficit and secure a 2-1 victory over newly promoted Almeria. The 31-year-old Belgian is no longer explosive enough to play on the wing, but his deft touches and unique close control can help break down a deep block when he is positioned centrally as an attacking midfielder in between the lines. It seems Hazard may have finally found a clear role he can carve out at the club, that of a “game-changer”. It is highly unlikely that the Belgian finds a starting job, but an impact substitute seems like a best-case scenario for the #7.

Hazard did not feature on Wednesday against Eintracht Frankfurt and may have only earned the chance vs Almeria due to a Rodrygo injury. Even with the ankle plate removed, there has been nothing from Hazard’s performances to suggest that he can return to his Chelsea form. The physical pain may be removed, but the muscular speed and agility has long past with evidence provided by the last few seasons.

The reality of the Hazard situation is this: he is the best paid player at Real Madrid, in La Liga, and if in the Premier League would even be the highest paid player, above Cristiano Ronaldo, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, and so many others. Salaries are now made publicly available thanks to data from Fbref in partnership with Capology, a company that, “relies on a network of insiders directly involved in contract negotiations as well as publications around the world. When these are still not sufficient, Capology’s algorithms provide a best estimate. With Capology’s green checkmark, customers can trust we’ve taken additional steps to provide the most accurate data possible.”

Top 15 Earners in La Liga
Real Madrid wage structure for the 2022-2023 season

According to Capology’s data, Eden Hazard earns 3x as much from his Real Madrid contract when compared to 65% of the Real Madrid squad. The Belgian appears to earn 3x as much as the likes of Casemiro, Carvajal, Mendy, Militao, Valverde, and Rodrygo – none of those players he has been able to oust from the starting eleven. Real Madrid will be desperate to offload the player, though the idea of obtaining a transfer fee seems comical. Given the current situation for the club and player, Madrid would likely take a loan deal with the prospective club splitting the wages. Even at a 75/25 split, where Madrid cover 75% of Hazard’s wages, the club would save nearly ~8 million a year: the equivalent salary of another key squad player.

Questions need to be asked of the Real Madrid board for agreeing to pay those wages given the context of the situation. Eden Hazard wanted to play for Real Madrid – he had one year left on his Chelsea deal and there was no bidding war with a club like PSG or Manchester City. He only had eyes for Madrid. His Chelsea deal back in 2018 paid him €13 million per year, yet Madrid agreed to give him a 127% pay rise? The 2018-2019 season was one of Real Madrid’s worst in recent memory, but the one bright spot was Vinicius Junior. The young Brazilian’s explosion meant Real Madrid did not need to be desperate for Hazard, particularly if they could sign him for free the following season. When factoring the transfer fee of €120 million + his annual wages, Eden Hazard cost the club about €55 million per season on an amortized basis. Quite the expensive impact substitute.

Contracts like those given to Hazard, Bale, and even to a player like Mariano have become expensive mistakes. The hope is that the club have learned from those mistakes, but even the contract provided to Toni Rudiger this summer (€18.7M per season - 7th highest paid) is cause for concern given Ancelotti’s reluctance to break the Militao-Alaba center back partnership. The hierarchical nature of Madrid’s wage structure is more important than ever in the era of super clubs and mistakes like Hazard’s or Bale’s extension can hamstring the club for a number of years.

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