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Benzema talks Ballon d’Or, Zidane, Ronaldo, Ancelotti, La Liga and Champions League wins



Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

The past year has been a brilliant one for Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema. The 34-year-old led the way as Los Blancos won the La Liga title, the UEFA Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup last season.

Having been named club captain at the start of the new campaign, Benzema led Real Madrid to the UEFA Super Cup triumph. Not long after that, he won the UEFA Best Player of the Year award.

This past Monday was the crowning achievement, though, as he won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. Following the historic triumph, Benzema spoke to the Real Madrid official website in a candid interview, talking about his Ballon d’Or success among several other topics.

“It’s been my best season because, in the end, I’ve won the Ballon d’Or. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was a child. It was the best season of my life,” Benzema said.

“I have fulfilled the three dreams I had in my life: buy a house for my mother, sign for Real Madrid because they are the best club in the world, and third is the Ballon d’Or. I am very proud of my work.”

Talking about having won five Champions League trophies with Real Madrid, he said: “It’s history because we know how difficult it is to reach the final. I no longer say win it, but arrive. 

“Winning the Champions League is very complicated, but five is history. Real Madrid are a club with history and that is why they are the best. Madrid will always win.”

On his idols, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, Benzema said: “I am not above Zizou and Ronaldo, we are different. They are models and I cannot do what they did in the field, but they help me to try to do it. I will never be at the level of those two. 

“They have won the Ballon d’Or and I have just done it. But it’s hard to get to their level.”

Speaking about his style of play, the French international stated: “It’s a little bit of everything. When I was little, I played with older people and my head had to be faster. I had to move faster… That helps me right now. My game is now one touch. I know what I’m going to do when the ball comes to me.”

On his relationship with manager Carlo Ancelotti, he said: “I know Ancelotti. He is a great coach and he gives me a lot of confidence. He lets me play my football. He always asks me for that to win and be differential, but without putting pressure. 

“I remember one day in his office when he asked me how many goals I was going to score. He made a bet and told me: ‘I think you can score 50 goals’. Since I have a lot of confidence, determination and ambition, I told him okay. He gives a lot of confidence and lets you do what you want on the pitch.”

Benzema has thrived under Ancelotti (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

On the current Real Madrid dressing room, Benzema said: “It is a family. Youngsters and experienced stars are the same. Everyone listens to everyone else. People who start on the bench or are on the pitch are always ready to play. That’s why last year was very nice for us.”

On the objectives for the season: “I’m starting to say that this year is going to be very good. Not my year as I’m going to score so many goals or these things. But I see the team and the coach motivated. That pushes the team, we can do things.”

The French striker also reflected on the last season, talking about vital moments throughout the course of the 2021/22 campaign that culminated with Real Madrid winning La Liga and the Champions League.

Talking about his injury before the PSG game in the Round of 16, he said: “It was a moment to leave football and my teammates. Each game is difficult and we know the importance of each one. I had a few doubts, but I needed to rest. 

“Then I crushed myself to return soon because the important games like the one in Paris were coming. I worked a lot to arrive with my team in Paris.”

On his best moment of the season, Benzema chose the hat-trick against PSG, as he said: “On my return against PSG I was 100%, but I lacked things on the pitch like the whole team. After that, I told myself that we had to get our act together. 

“From there we began to score goals and make history. The hat-trick against PSG was a day I will remember because we won with a comeback on a magical night at the Bernabeu.”

Reminiscing the comeback win over Les Parisiens, he added: “I enjoyed the moment. I can’t tell what happened inside, but I can only say that I put in all my effort and helped my teammates. It was difficult to do it because I scored three goals against a team that could win the Champions League.”

After his hat-trick against PSG, Benzema would go on to bag another treble against Chelsea in the quarter-final first leg. Looking back at his goals against the Blues, he said: “Against Chelsea, I liked the first and the second goal. Also the third. 

“They are three different and very important goals, but if I had to choose one I would say the first goal because of the action. Everyone touches the ball, in motion and it’s the type of football that I like.”

Real Madrid were on the brink of elimination despite winning the first leg against Chelsea. At one point, they were 3-0 down in the second leg at the Bernabeu, but pulled off yet another miraculous comeback, with Benzema scoring the goal that clinched the aggregate win.

“I was very tired because it was a very important effort to run after a 0-3 deficit. It was a very complicated game with a lot of pressure. I had no strength,” he said.

Benzema scored crucial goals to help Real Madrid win the Champions League (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Not many footballers have the composure needed to pull off a Panenka penalty in a high-pressure encounter like the Champions League semi-final against a team like Manchester City. But that is exactly what Benzema did last season.

“I had to do it in a game and try to do something else. I have to do what he did when he was little. Do things as if you were playing with your friends. We are professionals, but in football and on the pitch I play as I did with my friends,” he said.

“I did it because it was a very important game and so that the fans would have it in their heads. It was time to do it.”

Talking about the historic comeback against Manchester City and how the atmosphere at the Bernabeu influenced the team, Benzema added: “I was on the field and we were trailing 0-1. And you see that the fans push more than ever. So we started thinking we could do it. 

“When you have your fans pushing you, you can come back. After that, we continue and that is the character of Madrid, you never drop your shoulders. After 1-1, we heard that they had added six minutes and we went forward to win the game. 

“For eighty minutes we were almost out, but in one action something happened. The emotions were brutal because in two minutes we scored two goals. After that, we were going to win the match.”

Looking back on the club’s 35th league title, Benzema said: “La Liga is complicated because there are many games. It was difficult, but in the end, we won with many points ahead. Why? Because every game was a final. 

“I like to score goals and provide assists, but when the season starts I don’t think that I have to be the top scorer. I don’t see it that way, but I’m very happy because it’s an important trophy. 

“There are many games that were important. One of them was Sevilla because we scored at the last minute. Another was also here against Atletico.”

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Real Madrid News

Rival watch: Barcelona midfielder essentially ruled out of Real Madrid clash



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

In what could be a real deal breaker for Real Madrid ahead of their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg clash against Barcelona, it has been revealed that as many as three Barça will be absent from the game while another key player remains a major doubt.

The list includes the likes of Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Andreas Christensen. The trio is certain to miss the game through respective injuries while a certain Frenkie de Jong is more or less ruled out, as per Javi Miguel.

It must be remembered that Barcelona are heading into the second leg with a 1-0 advantage. But the absence of the aforementioned players means Madrid can work on exploiting the frailties.

Despite the absence of such big names, Barcelona did pretty well against Elche in their previous outing, coming out 4-0 victorious, with the goals coming from Robert Lewandowski, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres.

With options lacking in midfield, Xavi decided to use the likes of Sergi Roberto and Eric Garcia along with Gavi in the heart of the lineup. In any way, they do have Sergio Busquets and Franck Kessie as backups if needed.

The defence, on the other hand, was perfectly guarded by Jordi Alba, Marcos Alonso, Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde.

One can expect Xavi to once again interchange Araujo with Kounde on the right since the Uruguayan has been rather successful in minimizing the threat of Vinicius Jr.

As far as Madrid are concerned, they are sweating over the fitness of three key defenders, namely, Antonio Rudiger, Nacho, and Ferland Mendy. Between these three, the Frenchman is out for about a month while Rudiger and Nacho are expected to be back before the Clasico.

If there are no casualties against Real Valladolid, Madrid will have a perfect midfield and attack, with only Mariano Diaz missing. 

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