Zidane backs ‘simply exceptional’ Benzema to pick up Ballon d’Or

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Zinedine Zidane has claimed it is a formality that “little brother” Karim Benzema wins the Ballon d’Or this year.

Benzema arguably had his best season for Los Blancos in 2021-22, picking up another Liga title plus the Champions League for a fifth time.

The French striker was pivotal in their run to the Champions League trophy by scoring 15 goals in the competition.

His European strikes came against some of the best teams in the world including Manchester City, PSG and Chelsea, while he also came up with 27 goals and 12 assists in 32 Liga games.

Benzema won the Champions League three years in a row from 2016-2018 when Zidane was manager in Madrid, with his former boss declaring there is no other contender for the Ballon d’Or.

“Karim is like the little brother I never had. We send each other messages. I’m not surprised by what he’s doing. I knew he was capable of that,” he told Marca.

“He has always been very good at Madrid. He’s simply exceptional. Will he win the Ballon d’Or this year? Top prize? Not only do I think that, but the whole world says it.”

Cristiano Ronaldo famously left Real Madrid in 2018, opting to join Juventus in Serie A. This was the turning point for Benzema as he was suddenly the focal point of the Madrid attack.

The following season, Benzema scored 21 goals and provided six assists in La Liga – in contrast, he only managed five goals in the league the previous year when Ronaldo was still in the Spanish capital.

Zidane emphasised how much Benzema’s experience has helped him to become one of the best players in the world and a frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or.

He said: “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.”

The Ballon d’Or will be presented in October.

Source: Eurosport

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