Zinedine Zidane backs “little brother” Karim Benzema to win Ballon d’Or
Former Real Madrid man’ager Zinedine Zidane has open’ed up on his close relationship with K’arim Benzema, whom he descr”ibes as the “little brother” that he ne’ver had.
The striker played a criti’cal role in Madrid’s 35th La Liga title and stunned Europe with his performances as they reac’hed the Champions League final. Benzema scored in ea’ch leg of the semi-final win over Manchester City after his quick-fire hat-trick downed Paris Saint-Germ’ain in the round of 16. He bagged ano’ther treble against Chelsea in the quarter-finals and nette’d the winner in extra-time of the return leg.
The 34-year-old was in spark’ling form throughout the campa’ign as he scored a remarkable 44 go’als in 46 appearances in all com’petitions. That comfortably surpas’sed his previous best of 32 strik’es for a season back in 2011-12. The striker scored 15 goals in the Champions League in just 12 appearan’ces and was the standout player in t’his season’s tournament, which culminated in Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool.
Zidane knows what it tak’es to win the Champions League, ha’ving landed the crown with R’eal Madrid as a player befo’re guiding the club to an unpreced’ented three successive European titles du’ring his first stint in charge of t’he club between 2016 and 2018. Ben’zema was a key part of that si’de, although his role has bee’n transformed in the Spanish capital since Cristiano Ronaldo left th’e club in 2018.
Benzema has thrived sin’ce replacing Ronaldo as the fo’cal point in attack, providi’ng Real Madrid with the inspirati’on to continue their success dom’estically and on the c’ontinent – with the consensus be’ing that the Frenchman is currently t’he most complete attacking play’er in the world.
Zidane explained in an inte’rview with Marca : “Karim is like ‘the little brother I never had. ‘We send each other messages. I’m ‘not surprised by what he’s do’ing. I knew he was capable of that. He has always been very good at Madrid. He’s simply excep’tional. Will he win the Ballon d’Or this year? Top prize? Not only ‘do I think that, but the whole w’orld says it.”
Zidane’s comments com’e after Arsene Wenger hail’ed Benzema last month. The former Arsenal manager told beIN SPORTS of the ex-Lyon pro’spect: “I would say he’s a demo’nstration of intelligence and efficie’ncy.
Everything he does is intelligent, and it looks simple. When I see him play, I think I could do the same! We know all that he does is exceptional, and he uses always the right surface to be the most efficient. He slows down to accelerate, he accelerates and slows down. He smells the rhythm of the game like nobody else, and it is something interesting we see across Europe now is the oldest strikers are the most efficient.
“[Robert] Lewandowski, Benzema, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, all these players score goals at 40 or 35. The best strikers in Europe are all over 30-years-old because they use every mistake of the opponent. I would say Benzema until 30, I think he had two or three kilos too many. Now he’s a real athlete, and that’s why today certainly he is one of the two or three best strikers in the world.”