Benzema: “It was the best season of my life, I have fulfilled the dreams I had”
After winning the Ballon d’Or 2022, Karim opens up about achieving his dreams, the magic of the Bernabéu...
Last Monday, October 17, Karim Benzema was announced as the winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or. His achievement is a reward for the meteoric season in which he celebrated Champions League and La Liga titles as top scorer in both, as well as lifting the Spanish Super Cup. He amassed 15 goals and 2 assists in Europe, and 27 goals and 12 assists in domestic competitions.
Benzema’s trio of dreams
After receiving the trophy, the Real Madrid striker confessed to having fulfilled three dreams: “I am very happy, because as I said, I had three dreams: Buying a house for my mother, which I did; signing for Madrid, because for me I have always said Madrid is the best club in the world, and the third, which was also in my head, is the Ballon d’Or. That is why I am very proud of what I have done”.
Zinedine Zidane, Benzema’s idol and club coach for three seasons, was given the honour of awarding him the Ballon d’Or. Also present at the gala was Ronaldo ‘the phenomenon’, the player Karim can still follow as an example, but he assured that the two legends are still on a step ahead: “Zizou and Ronaldo are different players, they are role models. I know I can’t do what they do on the pitch; they help me try but I know I will never be at their level. They’ve already won it and I’ve done so now too, but getting to that level is complicated”.
“When I was little I played with older people and I had to be quicker in my head; move faster, shoot faster, do everything a little bit faster, because people were older and stronger than me. So, I think that’s helped me, because right now my game is more than one touch and when the ball comes, I know what I’m going to do next”, explains Benzema on how he sees football and how he has adapted to different contexts throughout his career.
Ancelotti’s motivational methods
On Ancelotti and the bets the Italian coach makes to motivate his players, he says: “I know him, he’s a great coach, he gives me a lot of confidence, he allows me to play my football. What he always asks of me is just to play. Play my football to win, to make a difference, but without putting pressure on me. I remember one day in the office, he asked me how many goals I was going to score and he told me, “let’s have a bet, I think you can score 50 goals. As I have a lot of confidence, determination and ambition, I told him “ok, let’s do it”.
The Frenchman gives a few insights into the key reasons behind the team’s success, along with Carletto’s guidance: “About the team. What I like is that when it comes to being either a younger or older player, we are all equal. Everyone listens to everyone and both the players who start the game and those who are on the bench are all ready to play. And that’s why I think last year was a very beautiful year for us”.
The most important moment of the season
“La Liga, well it’s is very complicated, because there are many games, you have to be on it, all year round. It was difficult, but in the end we won with by a lot of points, why? Because every game for us was like a final.
Karim Benzema highlighted the important points in achieving the domestic title: the most important game, I don’t know there are many, but against Sevilla, in the last minute, and at here (at home) with Atlético de Madrid. These were very important matches”.
After lifting the Ballon d’Or, having won the double last year and starting this season by winning the European Super Cup, Benzema keeps the bar high: “I’ll start by saying that this year is going to be very good. Not my own year - I don’t know if I’m going to score so many goals - but I see a motivated team, a motivated coach, and that drives the team. We can do things”.
Benzema on that PSG game
Karim remembers his return from the hamstring injury he suffered at the end of January this year that put him out just before facing PSG, a match he played, despite only just having returned to full fitness: “It was a difficult time, leaving football, leaving my teammates, because each game is difficult and we knew how important it was. So, I had few doubts, but I said ‘one day of rest, then I’m going to push myself so I can come back soon’. The important games were coming, like the one in Paris. I did a lot of work to get there and be with my team in Paris. I think that on my return against PSG I was 100%, but then I lacked things on the pitch like the whole team did”.
After leaving the Parc des Princes with a result to cling onto, Benzema was clear that things had to change if they wanted to advance in the tournament: “And after this game I said ‘well, now we have to make a difference in every game’: we put our minds to it and then we started to score and make history. The hat trick against Paris at the Bernabéu is a day that I will always remember, because we won, it was a comeback and a magical night at the Bernabéu. It’s about enjoying the moment, saying ‘I’ve done it’. Three goals is very difficult against a team that can win the Champions League”.
Against Chelsea Benzema grabs the first goal and defines it as the football that he enjoys: “In the end there are three different types of goals, all very important, but if I have to choose one, I’ll take the first one. I like the move, everyone touches the ball, with movement, it’s the football that I like. It’s very, very, very tiring, because you put in a lot of effort. Running after 1, 2, 3-0, is very complicated, with a lot of pressure, they are very important games, at the end you get there and you have no strength, you have nothing left.
Karim is still the young man from Lyon who dreamed of wearing the white shirt and playing at the Bernabéu, and this is how he describes his penalty at the Etihad Stadium: “Because I have to make it into a game, something different, like when you’re little and you play with your friends. In the end it is playing football with friends. We are professionals. But on the pitch, for me, it’s like with friends. I do it because I know it will stay in the minds of the people and the fans”.
How the Bernabéu crowd helped Madrid overcome City
He fondly remembers the comeback against Guardiola’s City at the full Santiago Bernabéu, an aspect which for the Frenchman says was key in the comeback: “You’re on the pitch, and it’s 1-0 to City and you see that the fans push you, but more than ever. Then you start to think that we can do it. And that is the character of Real Madrid, never giving up and always being on top of everything. At 1-1, we all heard the announcement of six minutes added time and started to go forward and win this game. For 80 minutes we are looking at the 0 -1 scoreline. In the 90th minute, we are almost out of the game, but something happened in one move. I think the emotions of that match were unbelievable. In two minutes we scored two goals and after that we said ‘we’re going to win the game for sure’.
Karim is among the select group of players who has 5 Champions League titles under his belt: “It’s history, because we know it’s difficult to reach the final. I’m not saying to win but just to get there. Winning one is very, very complicated, Five is history, but Real Madrid is a club with history. That’s why I think it’s the best club in the history of football”.
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