Benzema: “I’ve become the player Zidane was talking about.”
Having recently been named French player of the year by France Football, Karim Benzema discussed his style of play, how he’s contributed to the development of Vinicius Junior and more. Here’s the interview in full:
Do you think you’re fully appreciated now?
“Apart from the statistics, besides scoring more goals, I don’t see what has changed in my football. I’m still the same player. We no longer bother to look at what a guy does on the pitch, just who has scored. And the next day, we consider him the best. It’s happened to me: If I don’t play a good game but I score, then they see me as the best. I don’t really like this type of football, but it will be more and more like that. It has become a sport in which you look at the statistics.”
“When I play, I try to respect football. For example, I can’t shoot if I don’t have an angle when there is an unmarked teammate. I’m going to pass the ball to him. I don’t think: ‘Ah, but possibly I’m going to score.’ Everyone has their way to watch football, but I try to go in the right direction.. I try to make others better.”
“Let’s take Vinicius Junior as an example. People will only remember what I said (‘Vinicius is playing against us’). But I know I have contributed to his development. You have to make him question his decision. Today, he is not the same player. He is doing what he should have been doing for a long time and you cannot tell him anything. He is a young player, very good. You just have to talk to him. I knew he was capable of producing a lot more. So in two or three sentences on the field, in two or three movements, I showed him things, especially in the last twenty meters. He has to make the decision himself, cross to make the decisive pass, not at all, or shoot to score. Raise your head, look ahead. He already started. Today, that’s Vinicius Junior!”
Is Benzema a pure goalscorer, or something else?
“I don’t care if I’m considered a goalscorer or not… It doesn’t interest me. I’m not one. But you have to understand what a goalscorer is, a 9. Robert Lewandowski is a goalscorer, a scoring machine.”
“When Ronaldo played for Real Madrid he scored between 50 and 60 goals a year. So you have to adapt to this reality. I had to move more on the pitch, give him space. When he left, what changed was that it was my turn to take over, score goals, give assists to my other teammates.”
“I’ve taken over in my own way and it’s going well. I don’t play like Cristiano Ronaldo and he doesn’t play like Karim Benzema. When Cristiano Ronaldo was there, I was more the one who created, he was the one who finished.”
Since the start of your career, which players have you had the most fun playing with?
“Cristiano, Mesut Özil, Juninho, Fred and also Zizou in training. Technical players, that’s football, you call, the ball arrives, you give it to him, he gives it to you. I grew up watching Ronaldo Nazario and, in my opinion, he could do everything… and Zidane: His controls, knew when to make the right pass, the right dribble…”
Benzema was also proud that he eventually became the player Zidane envisioned him to be in 2014, when he said “I would like to see him as the one he could become. A true killer with the desire to destroy everything and goals numbers that are higher and higher. I’ve become the player Zinedine Zidane was talking about. I’ve been me for three years.”