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Why should Real Madrid spend £100m on Hazard when they already have wonderkid Vinicius Jr?

02:00 GMT+3 22/03/2019
Hazard Vinicius Junior
The Belgian is a top summer target for the Blancos, but should they be pursuing the Chelsea star when they already possess the Brazilian sensation?

The only certainty at Real Madrid right now is that absolutely nothing is certain. Back-to-back Clasico defeats were bad enough, but a humiliating Champions League reverse at the hands of Ajax was the final straw for the fuming Bernabeu faithful, spoiled after years of European success.

Zinedine Zidane has been drafted in once more as Madrid's firefighter, the man whose legendary standing can placate supporters more than anyone else. But who will the Frenchman turn to in his efforts to rebuild? Will the likes of Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale, cornerstones of four Champions League wins, stay and fight or opt to vacate this leaky, if not yet sinking, ship?

All will be decided in what will undoubtedly be long, tense months to come before the start of the 2019-20 season and a chance for a fresh start.

Amid such confusion and hurt the temptation to spend big and rebuild will be huge after years of relative inactivity in the transfer market. Indeed, one of the reasons Zidane agreed to return is that he was promised a huge transfer budget – reported to be in the region of €300 million (£257m/$338m).

Eden Hazard, an eternal target and very much appreciated by Zidane, will be pursued more than ever – with Madrid already making first contact over a €116m (£100m/$131m) move.

But with the teenage Vinicius Junior one of the few Madrid players to escape scathing criticism over these past few disastrous weeks, the Merengue would be advised to save their money and look elsewhere in their bid to strengthen.

The 18-year-old Brazilian's talents are evident, but what has been even more impressive is the character shown at such a tender age to step into the breach and command a regular first-team place at the Bernabeu.

Zidane’s predecessor Santiago Solari utilised his former Castilla charge primarily on the left side of attack, playing a bigger part in Madrid's build-up than inside the penalty area – a role that explains his relatively slim return of four goals in 26 matches in all competitions so far. But his real contribution has been far greater.

In the Copa del Rey alone, Vinicius added a further six assists - and he has generally made life uncomfortable for defenders with his mazy dribbling and astonishing turn of pace from a standing start. The ex-Flamengo wonderkid must yet add a calmer head when finishing to his repertoire, with too many shots still ending up in row Z or nearer the corner flag than the back of the net. But there is no doubting his exceptional ability, which has led him to earn second place in the 2019 NxGn – Goal’s list for the 50 best teenagers in the world born this millennium.

Where would that leave Hazard, then? The Chelsea star is seen as filling a similar role, cutting in off the left flank and creating while also providing his own quota of goals to the general effort. Madrid have long coveted his services and the Belgian is keen to make the move, especially as Zidane was his footballing idol as a youngster.

Negotiations will not be easy. Chelsea face 12 months of transfer inactivity after receiving a FIFA ban, which is currently under appeal. Losing their talisman with no prospect of replacing him from the outside would be an unacceptable scenario, one perhaps even less palatable than letting him run down his deal and leaving as a free agent just over a year from now.

The first priority, of course, will be to tie the 28-year-old to a new contract. Hazard will have the opportunity to become Chelsea's best-paid player in return for a 'deal for life' that will bind him to Stamford Bridge until the twilight years of his career.

The Blues will have to hope that cold hard cash overcomes Hazard's professed love and admiration for Real. "Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid," he admitted back in October. 

"Sometimes in my head, I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay. It is a hard decision. It is my future." The Merengue also have a hard decision to make: should they break the bank on the Belgian and convince Chelsea to sell, or else place their trust in their teenage superstar?

Whether he joins or not, Madrid are safe in the knowledge that at least one spot in their forward line has a suitable occupant for perhaps the next decade. Vinicius seems impervious to the pressure-cooker atmosphere around him, taking in his stride even the challenge of filling a spot left by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

An unfortunate muscle injury threatens to have finished his season early - as well as denying him his Brazil senior debut in the March friendlies - but he will be back better than ever in 2019-20 in what will be a new-look Blancos team packed with fresh faces.

One of those may be Hazard, and if the move does occur we may even see the forward pair line up together. Vinicius shifting over to the right is one plausible scenario, relegating Bale even further down the pecking order if the Welshman does not depart in the next window.

Much work is needed at the Bernabeu over the coming months, with plenty of heads set to roll. But the scintillating teenage Brazilian has his place assured, one of the very few certainties one can count on around the Spanish capital.