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Hazard's interest in Madrid move highlights hypocrisy of Chelsea fans' Courtois criticism

12:00 BST 24/10/2018
Thibaut Courtois Eden Hazard Chelsea 2015
The goalkeeper has been labelled a "snake" for wanting to join Real but his compatriot is still lauded as a hero even though he has said the same

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been targeted by Chelsea fans on social media channels, even labelled a "snake" by some disgruntled supporters because of the way in which he handled his summer switch to Spain.

Indeed, the criticism has been relentless since the reigning European champions secured the services of the Belgium No.1 for a bargain £31.5 million ($40m) due to his determination to leave and the fact that he had less than a year left on his Blues contract.

It left Chelsea needing to pay over the odds to activate the £71m ($91.8m) release clause in Kepa Arribazalaga's Athletic Club contract to in order to land a replacement before the season began.

The snake emoji now appears regularly across Courtois' social feeds, as a sizable group Chelsea fans have come to view him as a hate figure.

The social media abuse has migrated into the real world, too, with the Blues away fans regularly chanting "Thibaut, you're a c***" during matches. There's also the slightly more creative but still bitter song "Oh oh oh, it's Kepa! You know, he's better than f***ing Thibaut!"

The treatment of Courtois is harsh, though, and the current transfer saga involving Chelsea's star man, Eden Hazard, and Real highlights the hypocrisy of berating one man for wanting to move to Madrid while cheering another.

So many of Hazard's most recent interviews echo those of Courtois from last season, with the winger openly entertaining the idea of moving to Madrid as the final year of his own contract approaches. 

Courtois had sporadically commented on a return to Madrid during his spell in west London but he stepped it up in December of last year, having just played his former club Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Previously, it had looked like he would renew his Chelsea contract but his comments on Real came as a blow and intensified the focus on him in the Spanish media.

Like Hazard now, a bid from Real was never guaranteed, but he undoubtedly benefited from going public with his possible interest in returning to Madrid. 

However, it is worth remembering that the primary motive behind the transfer was Courtois' desire to be reunited with his two daughters in the Spanish capital, which he himself acknowledged on the day he was unveiled as Real's new goalkeeper.

“I wanted to come here and, importantly, be close to my children [who live in Madrid with his former partner]," he explained. "When there was a firm offer on the table, I was in no doubt. My goal was to come to Real Madrid; everyone knew that.

“All I’d like to do is to thank the fans for the last four years and for how they’ve supported me at Chelsea. I’ve got a new opportunity in my career now and I have to make the most of it. I’ve got two kids here and that had a significant role to play in my decision.”

A family motive is hardly traitorous but his kissing of the Real badge at his unveiling was seen as provacative among the Chelsea fan base, as was inviting Hazard to join him at Santiago Bernabeu.

“He’s a wonderful player,” Courtois added. “I’d love to play alongside him again and we’ll have to see what happens in the future. If he ends up here one day, that would be brilliant.”

Hazard has already spoken of how he would want to avoid making the same public relations errors as his friend should he leave Stamford Bridge but that hasn't prevented him from confessing it would be a "dream" to join Real, an admission that went down well with the Blancos dressing room.

In addition, those comments ensured that Hazard's future remained a major talking point during the international break and the speculation over his next move is unlikely to subside any time soon, particularly as he used the carrot of winning the Ballon d'Or as a reason to move to La Liga.

Still, Hazard has more reasons to stay at Stamford Bridge than Courtois. Firstly, and most importantly, both he and his family are happy and settled in London, while there's also the fact that he is enjoying the best form of his career under new coach Maurizio Sarri. 

Chelsea are willing to offer him a five-year contract worth £300,000 a week in the hope of persuading him to stay put, but everything hinges on the will of the player. 

Of course, while Courtois was successful in attracting a bid from Real, it doesn't necessarily mean that Hazard will be too. Certainly, he will have to maintain his sensational form if Real are to select him as their next Galactico ahead of PSG's superstar duo of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

However, he is undoubtedly good enough for play for Madrid, and he knows it. What happens next is essentially up to him.

Courtois isn't a snake for wanting to move to Madrid, though, and Hazard wouldn't be either if history does indeed end up repeating itself next summer.