Zinedine Zidane: Karim Benzema is France’s best ever striker

Zinedine Zidane admits that, in his opinion, Karim Benzema is France’s best ever striker.

The 34-year-old was awarded the 2022 Ballon d’Or on Monday night after a sensational season with Real Madrid – one that saw him bag 44 goals and contribute 15 assists in 46 appearances en route to winning La Liga and the Champions League.

Benzema notched 15 goals in the latter competition alone, including a hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain and crucial strikes against Manchester City in the knockout stages.

Ballon d’Or success saw Benzema become the first French player to win the trophy since Zidane in 1998, and only the fifth ever – Michel Platini, Jean-Pierre Papin and Raymond Kopa the illustrious company he has joined.

In an exclusive interview with French publication L’Equipe, Zidane has spoken at length about Benzema’s success, and admitted that he considers the former Lyon hitman to be the greatest striker France have ever produced.

Zidane also spoke of Benzema’s impact on his career as a manager, and talked about his remarkable consistency over the past few years.

Karim Benzema netted in El Clasico at the weekendKarim Benzema netted in El Clasico at the weekend

Karim Benzema netted in El Clasico at the weekend / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

“The best striker in the history of French football? I don’t like to say ‘he’s the best’, everyone has their favourite player. Some will tell you it’s Jean-Pierre Papin with his exceptional goals, others will talk about Michel Platini…For me, it’s Karim, yes, because I worked with him and I know what it is worth. 

“In any case, it deserves to be very high. I wish him to continue for a long time to go for records and to shine on the ground, with Real Madrid and with the France team. He is able to go even higher.”

“Control is what makes it possible to launch actions and he does crazy controls. He never misses them, even from the chest. Its on-the-move controls are superb. It’s beautiful to see when you’re three metres away from him. 

“We sometimes said that we would have liked to play together. I would have made him score a lot of goals, yes, really (smile) . It didn’t happen, but we made up for it as a coach and a player.”

“Karim has been more than important in my career as a coach. These kind of players, like Toni Kroos or Luka Modric, when you are a coach, you are happy to have them with you.

“They do not lose a ball in an hour of training and in a match, at any time, they are able to make a difference. Karim may not be well for ten to fifteen minutes but in a flash, he is able to score, to score, to achieve incredible gestures.”

Benzema enjoyed great success working under ZidaneBenzema enjoyed great success working under Zidane

Benzema enjoyed great success working under Zidane / Denis Doyle/GettyImages

“He became a legend at this club, he achieved incredible things there and will be remembered by people for a long time. I am happy for him because he deserves what he has won. He always had confidence in himself, even when some said: ‘Ah yes but Karim, he doesn’t score enough goals for a number 9.’ And it wasn’t fair, because when he didn’t score, he always score and play others well. And for me, that’s just as important. 

“Karim is a collective player who loves and feels the game and makes others better. I like ! I was like him when I was a player, less of a scorer, no need to say.”

“For three or four years, Karim has been a dominant player at all levels and with remarkable consistency. Last season, his team was exceptional and he was more than exceptional. What impresses me with players like Karim is their ability to remain calm when the matches become important. 

“The more we advance in the competition, the more serene they are. As a coach, it’s precious to have players like that. Last season, at this level, he was incredible. He scored a lot at the end of the match, at the last minute, and it has nothing to do with luck, it’s the sign of great players. Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals…He showed that on his own, he could overthrow everything.”

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