Former Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has announced his retirement from football to enjoy ‘new experiences’ in the future.
Hazard, 32, joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2019 for £89 million, but played just 54 league games for the Spanish giants and left the club at the end of last season.
The Belgian winger was released by Los Blancos this summer after having his contract mutually terminated a year before it was due to expire, and he was linked with numerous clubs across the globe for a number of months.
He won two Premier League titles during his time at Stamford Bridge.
“You must listen to yourself and say stop at the right time,” said Hazard, who has been a free agent since his contract was terminated in June.
“After 16 years and more than 700 matches played, I have decided to end my career as a professional footballer.”
The Belgian had already retired from international football last December after being part of the squad which was knocked out of the 2022 World Cup during the group stage.
At Real Madrid, Hazard won the Champions League, a Club World Cup, a European Super Cup, two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and two Spanish Super Cups. But his time in Spain is widely considered disappointing – he scored just 7 goals in 76 appearances in all competitions due to injuries.
“One of the greatest players in Chelsea history”, the Premier League club said on their website, adding that “he would always be welcome back at Stamford Bridge”.
Hazard started his career with French club Lille, scoring 50 goals in 149 appearances and helping the club to win a domestic double of Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France in 2010-11.
He moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2012, signing for a reported £32m and went on to become a club great, winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2014-15.
Hazard scored 110 goals across 352 appearances for the Blues, including the winner in the 2019 Europa League final against Arsenal in his final appearance for the club.
He is also one of only four players in Premier League history – alongside Thierry Henry, Matt Le Tissier and Eric Cantona – to score 15 or more goals and provide 15 or more assists in a single season, having netted 16 times and laid on 15 assists during the 2018-19 campaign.
“During my career I was lucky to meet great managers, coaches and teammates – thank you to everyone for these great times, I will miss you all,” Hazard added on social media.
“I also want to thank the clubs I have played for: LOSC, Chelsea and Real Madrid; and thank the RBFA for my Belgian selection.
“A special thank you to my family, my friends, my advisors and the people who have been close to me in good times and bad.
“Finally, a huge thank you to you, my fans, who have followed me for all these years and for your encouragement everywhere I have played.
“Now is the time to enjoy my loved ones and have new experiences. See you off the field soon my friends.”
After making his international debut against Luxembourg in 2008, Hazard earned 126 Belgium caps and scored 33 goals. He featured at three World Cups and two European Championships, as well as captaining the team 56 times.
He found the net three times at the 2018 World Cup when Belgium finished third, including a strike against England in the third-place play-off.