REAL MADRID

Ancelotti: "Benzema is the complete player"

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti lavished praise on Karim Benzema after the French forward scored twice in an emphatic opening-day win at Alavés.

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Ancelotti: Benzema the complete player

Carlo Ancelotti described Karim Benzema as the "complete player" after he inspired a 1-4 victory at Alavés in Real Madrid's first game of the 2021/22 season.

Benzema scored twice either side of a volley from Nacho, before Vinícius headed in the last of four second-half goals for Madrid in their first competitive game since Ancelotti returned to the club. Joselu had made it 1-3 from the penalty spot just after Benzema's second goal, but the visitors made an impressive start to their bid to regain the title.

Benzema takes year's tally to 17

Benzema has scored 17 LaLiga goals so far in 2021, a figure only bettered by Lionel Messi (23), and he appeared to thrive on wearing the captain's armband with Sergio Ramos having joined Paris Saint-Germain earlier this summer.

Ancelotti feels the French striker has matured into a magnificent all-rounder player. He said: "Benzema is the completion of the team, reading the situations of the match very well. He is a player I think is not enough to call a forward. He is a very complete player. Now he is more complete than five years ago."

Gareth Bale started his first game in the Spanish top flight since June 2020 after a loan spell with Tottenham last season, while Eden Hazard caused Alaves problems after he was also named in the side. Bale scored in the 2014 Champions League final victory over Atlético during Ancelotti's first spell at Madrid, but fell out of favour under Zinedine Zidane and there appeared to be no way back for him after he famously held up a 'Wales, golf, Madrid' flag.

Ancelotti backs Bale

Ancelotti is unsure whether the Wales captain has more desire to play for the club now, but says the forward has plenty to offer. "I do not know if he is more committed than other years, because I was not there," he said. "Bale is going to improve because his condition is not optimal yet, like everyone else's. Everyone can improve."

Madrid have not been beaten in their opening game of a LaLiga campaign since 2008, winning nine and drawing four of their first games since then.