Loic Remy is not worried about the possibility of Eden Hazard flopping at Real Madrid, telling Goal that he realised the Belgian was a “genius of a player” the first time they played a game together at Chelsea.
Hazard moved from Stamford Bridge to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2019 for an initial £88 million ($117m), but the winger has been ravaged by injuries and has managed just three goals in 28 appearances in all competitions for Los Blancos.
Some Spanish pundits have already written Hazard off, with the media now focusing on Madrid’s hopes of signing Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe next summer.
However, Remy says Hazard has both the talent and, more importantly, the self-belief to prove his worth in La Liga.
“I knew Eden before I signed for Chelsea,” the Frenchman, who spent three years on Chelsea’s books between 2014 and 2017, tells Goal. “I used to play against him when I was at Marseille and Nice, and he was at Lille.
“So, in my first session at Chelsea, he arrived on to the training pitch with his laces undone and welcomed me. I asked him: ‘Are you really going to train like this?’ He said: ‘Yes, no problem’.
“I felt like going into a Chelsea training session that the intensity would be very high because it is such a big club and I put pressure on myself to perform at 100 per cent.
“So, when I looked at Eden… He didn’t defend well in the session either, he gave away the ball and, at the end of training, I asked: ‘You train like this?’ He was like: ‘Don’t worry, I am the boss’. But not in an arrogant way, as he can be casual when he speaks.
“Then, along comes the first game for Chelsea and I am on the bench against Swansea City (September 2014). Diego Costa scored a hat-trick, so Jose Mourinho brings me on and I scored a debut goal, but only after Eden danced around the box with the ball before giving to Oscar to set it up.
“I was so happy in the dressing room afterwards. Then, Eden came up to me and said: ‘Now you see who is the boss!’ And he was the boss in his own eyes because he made everything look easy. He is such a genius of a player.
“At Real Madrid, the expectation is even higher than at Chelsea but it is all about hard work and Eden’s recovery. It’s so important to keep fit and he knows this, so I am not worried about him. Remember, every player has tough times, even the best players.”
Remy has had his own issues during a nomadic career that has taken in spells with clubs such as QPR, Newcastle, Lille and now Caykur Rizespor.
“With the money so high in the sport, the expectations become so high and the fans expect you to perform well every weekend,” Remy explains. “As a human being, you still can have weak moments but people don’t want to see it.
“My time at Lille was the perfect example as I got criticised before I even kicked a ball for the club. I was upset with what the French media wrote but kept quiet and I think that when I left, the opinions changed.
“You just have to accept the criticism and when you come through the bad moments, you keep your head up, show pride and deliver on the pitch. Not everything about being a footballer is great but it will never change.
“I don’t have too many friends in football. I keep myself to myself and just protect my family. I’ve always felt like it’s the best way to be. I just try to do my job well all the time and be professional.
“Chelsea was the highest level I reached, of course, and when I went there, it was really difficult for me to handle it. We had been champions under Mourinho but I didn’t play that much.
“My career had been going very well at that point. I had a fantastic season at Newcastle and Chelsea bought me. Going to Chelsea stopped my run of always playing and it was frustrating because I wanted to go in and keep progressing.
“Still, I don’t think it was a mistake to go there. Definitely not, I got experiences of playing with Didier Drogba, John Terry and Hazard. I learned a lot.
“It was difficult to stay because I didn’t play enough and eventually you feel like you are wasting your time. It slowed down my career. Of course, I wanted to do more, to shine and play. But it is beautiful there with the atmosphere, stadium and fans.
“This happens to a lot of players and eventually you see that the money is there but the enjoyment isn’t. I preferred to earn less money and play. I was speaking this way to the club and I felt it was time to go.”
Now 33, Remy is playing in the Turkish top division with Rizespor and has scored six goals in nine games this season – something he attributes to adopting an even more professional approach to his fitness.
“I have had difficult times with a lot of injuries, especially during my time in England,” Remy reveals. “So, I decided to hire a physiotherapist, who is on call 24 hours a day for me. That’s a big change for me and has helped my recovery.
“That’s why I feel so good right now. If I knew before that this would be so helpful, then I would have done it earlier. I think when you are young, you don’t think about these things. But I know my body now and it has been key to staying in good shape. I have more to give so I don’t think about retiring now.”