Hazard and Neymar, football entertainers, endured hardships

Photo of Neymar drive to outside football field after his ligament rupture

On the day Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, was grappling with the severity of his injury, a few thousand spectators in northern France found joy in Calais while attending a charity football match. Eden Hazard was among the players on the field, sharing the pitch with veteran players from the late 20th century and some loosely associated celebrities.

The game was rather uneventful, but it had a memorable moment when Hazard executed a backheel pass that led to a goal scored by Wilfried Mbappe, the father of Kylian Mbappe. Surprisingly, Hazard, despite being just 32 years old, had retired from football just a week earlier.

Neymar, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday in February, now faces an extended recovery period after suffering a cruciate ligament rupture during a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay. This injury carries significant implications for Al Hilal, the club that acquired him from Paris Saint-Germain, as well as for Brazil, where Neymar holds the record for the all-time highest goal scorer.

For Neymar, a superstar who has consistently aspired to win the Ballon d’Or, claim a World Cup victory, and be considered the third member of a generation-defining trio alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the surgery and extended absence must be evaluated in the context of his remaining career years.

In contrast to Cristiano Ronaldo, who continues to excel at the age of 39, Neymar’s injury history suggests a less resilient body. Since 2017, Neymar has suffered 16 significant injuries that resulted in a total of 640 days spent off the field, and many of these injuries were not the result of direct physical impact but rather the cumulative toll of his playing style and the lack of protection from referees, particularly in France’s Ligue 1.

Similar to Neymar, Hazard faced concerns about the treatment he received from defenders while playing for Chelsea in the English Premier League. Although he experienced periods of injury, they were fewer in number compared to Neymar’s time at PSG.

Both Neymar and Hazard, at different times over the past decade, were regarded as among the most exciting individual players globally, not far behind Ronaldo and Messi, even during the prime of the latter two stars.

Hazard moved to Real Madrid a year after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, seeking a league with less physical intensity than the Premier League. Unfortunately, his time in Madrid was marked by injuries, with just 41 starts in four years. Consequently, he announced his retirement as a professional player, citing that he had “listened to his body.”

Neymar, after his latest injury, described it as the “worst” he has ever experienced. His journey in the Saudi Pro League is currently on hold, and there is uncertainty regarding his recovery in time for Brazil’s Copa America campaign in June. The worst-case scenario is that, like Hazard, Neymar might conclude that, at the age of 32, there may be no clear path forward for his career.


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