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Real Madrid legend lavishes praise on ‘little brother’ Benzema after Ballon d’Or triumph



Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Speaking to L’Equipe (h/t MARCA), former Real Madrid superstar and manager and club legend Zinedine Zidane has sung praises of Karim Benzema following his Ballon d’Or triumph.

The 34-year-old striker won the prestigious award this past Monday and it was almost poetic that Zidane himself was the one to present the golden orb to Benzema at the ceremony.

Following the crowning of the French superstar, Zidane spoke to the media where he gave an insight into the relationship he shares with the current Real Madrid captain.

“I am like an older brother to Benzema, that’s what we like very well to call each other. He calls me my older brother and I call him: my little brother,” he said.

“We had almost the same path, he is from Lyon and I am from Marseille, but apart from this, we have many things that bring us together, even in our origins.”

Speaking of the striker’s qualities, Zidane added: “His touch of the ball has always amazed me, it is wonderful in addition to his control. This is what allows him to start the attacks and the shots he makes.

“He has an amazing control feature in various positions, even with his chest or in a moving position, he does not lose control.”

The 2006 FIFA World Cup finalist admitted that he would have loved to play with Benzema, stating: “It’s fun to watch when you’re next to him on the field or 3 meters away, we’ve told each other many times that we wish we had played with one team.

“I would have made him score a good number of goals. That didn’t happen, unfortunately. We at least managed to work together.”

Talking about Benzema’s career progression at Real Madrid, Zidane added: “He came as a youngster to Madrid, and when he had some difficulties in the team many thought he would give up.

“But he said ‘I want to succeed here and I’ll be the best’ and in the end, he managed to do so, despite the criticism and pressure at a huge club like Real.”

“He’s really strong, and that’s what I love the most about him. He never threw the towel or gave up at any point. He let everyone talk and criticize, but now what he has achieved with his career, and his numbers respond on his behalf.”

On the general opinion that Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid helped Benzema flourish, Zidane said: “Everyone says that Cristiano’s departure changed everything for Benzema at Real Madrid, but I do not see this.

“Karim was a very good player with Cristiano, he scored and made many goals for Ronaldo. What I see is that he just developed more and gained more confidence.”

When quizzed if Benzema is the best striker in the history of French football, Zidane replied: “I do not like to say that he is the best, everyone has their opinion and their favourite player.

“Some will say Jean-Pierre Papin with his mythical goals and some will talk about Michel Platini, but for me, yes he is generous, because I know him, I lived with him and know what is his value.”

“In any case, he deserves to be at the top. I hope that he continues for a longer period, that he goes in search of records and continues to shine on the field with Real Madrid, and the French national team. Because he is still able to go higher than what he reached,” Zidane added.

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Real Madrid News

Real Madrid convinced with 21-year-old loanee’s performances, will count on him next season



Photo via Getty Images

Real Madrid are eager to enhance their options in central defense after deciding to not sign any defenders in the recent January transfer window.

Several players are on the club’s radar, with Lille’s promising center-back Leny Yoro most notably high on the club’s wishlist.

However, the Merengues are not turning a blind eye to their homegrown academy gems, as Rafa Marin is making a strong case for himself to join the first team dynamics next summer.

Rafa Marin strengthens his case

The 21-year-old is presently on loan at Alaves and is showcasing solid performances in the heart of defense, with Real Madrid reported to count on him next season.

Now, AS have reported that the reason for the club’s trust in Marin is his upsurge in performances at Alaves. And if Nacho Fernandez leaves, Marin will serve as the fourth central defender in the squad.

A testament to his worth to Alaves is the fact that Marin has not been benched since mid-November, demonstrating his importance in coach Luis Garcia Plaza’s defense.

With 2,282 total minutes played, he ranks as the fourth-highest on the team with the most minutes.

Against Atletico Madrid recently, Rafa Marin enjoyed a stellar outing. In addition to making 15 recoveries and 9 interceptions, he took part in 24 defensive actions. Along with winning two ground and four air duels, he only committed one foul.

A stellar performance vs Atletico. (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)

An important summer for Marin

Not only is Rafa Marín returning to Real Madrid, but he is also going to represent Spain in the Olympics in Paris.

Marin was included in five of the six matches during the Euro Under-21 qualifiers because coach Santi Denia of Spain’s under-21 team greatly values his presence and height (1.91 meters).

Marin has a bright future ahead of him if all goes according to plan. His season with Alaves is sure to serve as a stepping stone for his integration into the Real Madrid first team.

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