Chelsea winger and reported Real Madrid transfer target Eden Hazard has revealed his admiration for Los Blancos' manager Zinedine Zidane, as well as expressed a desire to one day work with the Frenchman.
I have always appreciated Zidane. I know him well as a player, but I don't know him as a coach, although he has made a good start at the Santiago Bernabeu. I still have a contract with Chelsea, though, and I am feeling very well here.
Of course I would like to work with him. I watched him for hours on the television and online when I was a child. I always talked about Zidane. But I can only repeat that I am happy at Chelsea, so this is not something that is an issue now.
Hazard's latest words, intentionally or not, will simply add more juice to what's sure to be the main transfer saga of this summer.
Contracted with Chelsea until 2020, per the same report, rumours of Hazard swapping Stamford Bridge for the Spanish capital have nonetheless gathered pace in recent months.
Gill claimed Hazard has even "made up his mind to leave Chelsea," while Spanish source Fichajes (h/t Bruce Archer of the Daily Express) has suggested Madrid have "set themselves a £75 million budget" to make a deal happen.
In this context, it will no doubt please Hazard to know Zidane returns his admiration. In January, Rob Smyth of the Guardian stated Hazard is "much admired" by the Frenchman.
A talisman for Chelsea when the west London club won the Premier League and Capital One Cup during the 2014/15 campaign, Hazard has regressed significantly since. He has scored just one goal all season, according to WhoScored.com, while supplying a mere three assists.
Obviously, much more was expected from the 25-year-old after he picked up the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award. His struggles can't all be explained by the strain at the club prevalent in the last days of Jose Mourinho's second era as manager.
Hazard has even revealed how he texted Mourinho, once the Portuguese had been sacked, to apologise for his dip in form this season, according to Dominic Fifield of the Guardian.
At his best, Hazard can definitely be a match-winner, thanks to his combination of pace, skill and flair. An on-form Hazard is one who glides across the pitch with the ball seemingly glued to his foot only to release it at the perfect time, either via a fierce shot or a smart pass.
He also has a decent pedigree of inspiring teams to success, having also helped French side Lille to a Ligue 1 title and Coupe de France double earlier in his career.
But is Hazard really the Galactico-level talent Madrid president Florentino Perez usually craves and the club's fans often demand? That's certainly debatable given Hazard's struggles for consistency at various times during his career.
He's a mercurial attacker and creative force who still has room to grow. Joining Madrid and being surrounded by top stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo might help that process.
Yet, it's still hard to shake the feeling Hazard is a player who too often flatters to deceive and may never realise his full potential. Those concerns have to make him a massive gamble for Zidane, Perez and Los Merengues.