REAL MADRID

Zidane: "Benzema is the total footballer"

After Karim Benzema surpassed Roberto Carlos' Real Madrid appearence record as a foreign player, Zidane once expressed his devotion for his compatriot.

Zidane: "Benzema is the total footballer"

On Saturday against Atlético Madrid, Karim Benzema overtook Roberto Carlos as the most-capped foreign player in Real Madrid’s history with 528 appearances, a milestone that highlighted the Frenchman’s footballing maturity.

Zinedine Zidane has always been one of the great believers in the veteran French striker and, following Saturday’s game, was once again full of praise for his compatriot.

"What he's doing is tremendous," Zizou told Real Madrid TV. "Karim has been here for many years. He’s scored many goals, played a lot of football and I am happy for him. He’s a guy who has always shown that he is good on the field. That is what he is showing everyone, not only here at this club. Everyone who loves or likes football, likes Karim.”

Zidane has been a proud member of Team Benzema since day one and his firm response to Gary Lineker three seasons ago after the England legend and TV pundit criticized the Madrid number nine is still remembered. There has been endless debate on whether Benzema is a pure nine or not. But from the perspective of Zidane, who has often gotten involved in the debate, the Frenchman “is pure football”.

“Karim is spoken of as a pure nine, a nine and a half, a ten ... For me he is a bit of everything. I would define him as the total footballer,” the Madrid boss said.

Zidane not thinking about Benzema’s replacement

Indeed, Benzema is the total attacker who right now is essential at a Madrid where Mariano and Luka Jovic do not have the coach’s confidence except when injuries force him to call upon them.

“He is fundamental for the team. Karim gets involved in the play when he needs to and also scores goals,” said Zizou, leaving no doubt as to who his first-choice centre forward is until at least 2022, when Benzema’s contract is set to expire.

"I would never take a player like Benzema out of my team." Of course, that 2022 date is not definitive and it’s easy to presume that the 32-year-old will extend his deal by another year, particularly given the enormous care he takes of his body.

Zidane and Benzema.

Zidane and Benzema.

Benzema’s numbers at Real Madrid

Over his record-breaking 528 appearances for Real Madrid, Benzema has scored 257 goals, translating to 0.48 goals per game. That is very far from Cristiano Ronaldo’s record (1.02) as a Madrid player but he is still a key figure that continues to highlight his value in the Champions League.

There was that brilliant headed brace (the first in almost four years by a Madrid player) that destroyed Borussia Monchengladbach mid-week and rescued Los Blancos from Champions League death. It is an element of his game that he has been refining in recent years, as he looks to get closer to that ideal of the total attacker that Zidane, his mentor and protector, already sees him as.