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‘Belgium not at war with Real Madrid’ over Eden Hazard, says Roberto Martinez

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has said he is not giving up hope that playmaker Eden Hazard will recover from injury in time to be included in the Belgium squad for the European Championship later this year.

The Real Madrid player won’t undergo further surgery on his damaged right ankle, at the club’s recommendation, sources told ESPN on Thursday. Those same sources said that medical staff of his national team disagreed and was in favour of surgery.

“I feel this situation can be solved a lot earlier than the Euros, but only when Eden goes from day to day will we see the final answer. Belgium is not at war with Real Madrid, Hazard will be the best player at the European Championships,” Martinez said in a video news conference, adding that Belgium would follow the medical advice “to try and treat the injury in a conservative way” instead of surgery.

After being out for nearly two months, Hazard played a few minutes in a Spanish league game last weekend.

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However, Madrid said this week Hazard has been sidelined again by a muscle injury in his right leg.

“We want Eden to recover,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday. “The most important thing is for him to be well, totally. He won’t undergo surgery, we’re going to have a different plan, and we’re working on it. What I want, as coach, the player too, and everyone here is that he returns totally recovered.”

Hazard believes that the high number of muscular injuries he has sustained are directly related to his ankle problem. The former Chelsea star thinks that the metal plate inserted in his right ankle in the operation he had in March 2020, in Dallas, Texas, has not adapted well with his bone or his muscle.

The sources say that Hazard believes that his latest injury setback, a right muscular problem, is due to his effort to avoid putting too much pressure on his right ankle.

After consulting with several specialists, though, Real Madrid have ruled out Hazard undergoing surgery. Hazard will continue a conservative treatment and there is no prediction as to how long the player will be sidelined.

“We are very pleased with the medical advice,” Martinez said ahead of World Cup qualifying matches. “We are already working on the rehab.”

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Since joining Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, the 30-year-old Hazard has missed more games than he has played due to various leg injuries, including a fracture in his right foot during his first season with the Spanish club.

Martinez said the Belgian federation and Real Madrid should now work together to ensure Hazard recovers as soon as possible.

“We all feel very positive about what is going to happen in the next few weeks,” Martinez said. “Eden is in good spirits. He knows he is in the best moment of his career, we all see that when our captain is on the pitch he makes a difference, and now he is just looking forward to be fully fit.”

Martinez said it would be a gamble to set a date for Hazard’s return but said he feels “that this situation can be solved a lot earlier than the Euros” in June.

“He is a player who has never been injured in his career and this is a real shock, this is something new,” Martinez said. “There is a lot of uncertainty around that but in terms of the injury I feel very positive that we can get to see the best Eden Hazard well before the Euros.

“He has a long way to go in his recovery and we must not set any time limits on him. It would be wrong and it would be gambling by anyone to try and imagine whether he is going to be fully fit or not,” Martinez said.

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Belgium, which tops the FIFA rankings, starts its World Cup qualifying campaign on Wednesday against Wales before taking on Czech Republic and Belarus.

Martinez included Romelu Lukaku in his squad of 33 players but the striker will likely miss the match against Wales after a coronavirus outbreak at Internazionale.

“What matters now is the safety and the health of Romelu,” Martinez said, leaving the door open for Lukaku to play in other games.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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