Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema talks about his career, Clasico, Ballon d’Or dreams and how he’s getting better with age.
Karim Benzema is a professional footballer for Real Madrid and France. He talks about his Clasico dreams, Ballon d’Or dreams, and how he’s getting better with age.
MADRID, SPAIN — Perhaps the key is in the drink. Karim Benzema has just completed training at the Ciudad Deportiva, Real Madrid’s training complex in Valdebebas, near Barajas airport. He drinks a bottle of coconut water after changing into a tidy black trouser/amber polo designer combination for his ESPN interview.
It’s a scorching day in Madrid, and his beverage of choice may surprise you. Not if you’re acquainted with Benzema. Coconut water is high in potassium, salt, and magnesium, making it an excellent method to rehydrate after a workout or a game. It also has a low calorie count and is fat-free. Everything the 33-year-old Frenchman does is aimed towards improving his results. Fitness, recuperation, preparedness, and well-being — the discipline of self-care — have become obsessions for him. It’s fair to assume that Benzema improves as a player as he grows older.
“Physically, I’m in excellent shape. He tells ESPN, “The more time passes, the better I feel.” “It’s a lot about experience and, starting at 30, the unseen labor.” When you come home after training, you do anything you want. The solemnity and professionalism. It’s simply a matter of getting used to it. Learning to enjoy all aspects of the job, not just the field and football. It’s about enjoying the gym, getting enough rest, and eating properly. On your day off, to work.
“You get used to it. You don’t have to push yourself to do it; you like it. I go to the gym because it is something I like doing. There are times when I am weary and don’t want to go, but I do it because I like the job and know it will help me improve “He clarifies.
– LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, and more on ESPN+ – Watch ESPN FC every day on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – If you don’t have ESPN, you’re out of luck. Get immediate access
The summer transfer of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain has pushed Benzema even more into the limelight. Even at his age, he is not just El Clasico’s most recognized face, but also LaLiga’s (he will turn 34 at the end of December). While both Real Madrid and Barcelona are going through tough times, Benzema believes that the battles between the two clubs are still the most important games in global football.
“It’s still the same for me.” Regardless of the players that are there or those who have gone, this is the greatest football game in the world. It’s a fact of life. It is football, after all. Before Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Samuel Eto’o, there was Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Samuel Eto’o. Regardless matter the players, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona will always be Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. There is a difference in the pressure.
“I’ve been playing Clasicos for quite some time. This will be my 37th wedding anniversary! I go into the game knowing it’s Barcelona and all that comes with it, but I’m focused. I’d want to win it “he declares
Benzema has coped well with Real Madrid’s loss of Ronaldo and LaLiga’s loss of Messi, putting in some of his finest performances to date. Not bad for a guy approaching his 34th birthday in December. Getty Images/David S. Bustamante/Soccrates
Beyond the goal of communal triumph in Madrid, he has individual rewards in mind. Benzema has never been as powerful as he is currently at this point of his career. He’s never been more consistent, efficient, or significant, and he’s never been so close to winning the Ballon d’Or, the game’s greatest individual award.
He’s up against Lionel Messi, of course; Robert Lewandowski, who has been scoring like crazy all year; and Jorginho, who won the Champions League and the Euros in less than two months. Benzema, on the other hand, won the Nations League and has a fantastic record of consistency for both club and country. When we spoke in 2021, he had the most goals and assists for both club and nation, with 31 and 12 respectively. This season, no one has scored more goals in the Big 5 European leagues than him, fueling his ambition to become the first Frenchman to win the coveted trophy since Zinedine Zidane 23 years ago.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child,” he adds. “It’s also a motivator.” It’s already a victory to have made it into the list of 30 candidates.
“It’s always been a goal for me, and it’s always been in the back of my mind.” Of course, I was delighted for Cristiano Ronaldo when he won it in the past and had it on the field at the Bernabeu. You’re happy to be on his side, but you have to admit that you want to win as well.
“I can say that due to my performances, what I’ve been doing in the last three or four years here, I’ve never been so close to winning it,” he adds.
For Benzema, winning the Ballon d’Or is a goal, not an obsession. It was always a goal of his to play for Real Madrid, “the greatest club in the world.” Winning three LaLiga championships and four Champions Leagues with Real Madrid was also a goal, as was establishing his position in the club’s history with 201 goals since joining in 2009. Like returning to France and winning trophies for his nation, and being a role model for the younger generation. All of this has been accomplished by the Lyon striker.
“They’re statistics, and we speak about statistics a lot these days.” But what about me? What I like about today is that we look at my numbers as well as what I’m doing on the field. Passes, movement, actions, controls, and runs are the things I like the most. I’ve been consistent over the last three or four years, particularly in important games, in that when my team needs me, I’m always there to assist them. That is what brings me the greatest joy.
“I play football the way I want to play it.”
Benzema is aiming the Ballon d’Or after his form in 2021 and his performance since returning to the French national team. ‘I’ve never come so close to winning it,’ she says. ESPN FC provided this image.
The joy of the game is something that comes up often, and it will always be the primary reason he continues to play at the highest level. But perhaps most importantly, Benzema is now receiving credit for all he’s done for Real Madrid over the years, despite being often ignored during the Cristiano Ronaldo era.
“I understood exactly what I was bringing to the table for that group. Today, we can say that I am bringing more numbers to the table, but my game has remained the same “he declares “Of course, I am grateful for the honor today. It makes me pleased when everyone in the football world recognizes what I’m doing right now, and what I’ve been doing for one, two, three, or four years, the consistency.”
Luka Modric couldn’t help himself as he walked by Benzema on his way out of the training ground: “Balon de Oro,” he adds, smiling. The Croatian maestro is well-versed on the subject. He won it in 2018, when Benzema was the same age.
Benzema has the support of everyone at Real Madrid, from current players to past legends, in his quest for the ultimate individual trophy. He’s not alone in improving with age; Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for example, have both scored more goals after reaching 30 than they did before. The same goes with Benzema.
Karim Benzema thinks he is “not far” from realizing his ambition of winning the Ballon d’Or for men.
So, what’s the secret to his late-career brilliance? The ability has always been present. There is a “invisible” element of the game that isn’t quantified by numbers, but the departure of a particular megastar may have been the most important factor for Benzema. Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in July 2018 paved the way for the Frenchman, but he has no resentment or frustrations about his time with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“You’re at the service of the team, but you’re also at the service of the individual when you play alongside someone who scores 50 or 60 goals every season. I had to change my ways. I had a great relationship with him. Once he had gone, it was up to me to take a step forward and demonstrate that I, too, could make a difference “He keeps going. Since then, Benzema has carried this Real Madrid team, scoring 74 league goals since the start of the 2018-19 season.
If there was one player in the history of the game with whom he could join up today, it would be Brazilian forward Ronaldo. Benzema grew up idolizing Ronaldo, whom he calls “the best.”
“The only striker for whom I would accept a bench spot is Ronaldo!” It was because of him that I began performing step-overs, which were the identical motions he performed, even though he did them 1,000 times faster. He instilled in me a passion for football. There was also Zizou [Zidane], but Ronaldo, in my opinion, is the one who revolutionized the forward role. For me, he is the complete forward, a role model, and you must watch R9 if you want to understand about strikers.
“I don’t believe it’s only me that feels this way — I believe it’s everyone.”
It was wonderful to see Ronaldo write a message in support of him for the Ballon d’Or competition, complete with a picture of their first encounter in 2009. “Look at how young I am…” says Benzema.
The French national team has benefited from Benzema’s form. In the Nations League semifinals, he scored against Belgium, then again in the final against Spain, as France won the competition. Getty Images/Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images
“I was a little on my own when I arrived in Madrid. It was difficult. It’s very difficult. It all comes down to my mental fortitude. I won’t give up — I won’t let go — as long as I’m not an unquestioned starter, I’m not performing, or people don’t enjoy my game. In terms of football, we’re all very much the same [at Madrid]. We’re all capable of making a pass or scoring a goal. But the mental aspect is when you complete a game, relax for a while, and then start thinking about the next one, how to prepare, and how to perform. That is my strategy.
“I start thinking about my recovery and what I’ll do in the next match as soon as I complete a game, regardless of how good or terrible it was. Immediately. We perform one evening at 9 p.m. and then forget about it the following morning “he declares “[Real Madrid] is a fantastic team. It is hard, and the stakes are great. I can’t sit on my laurels and say, “Oh, it’s OK, I scored 30 goals last season, so this season I’ll take it easy.” It doesn’t operate that way, and that’s what keeps me going “> >
So, what does Benzema’s future hold? In June 2023, his contract will come to an end. He has plenty of time to consider what he will do next, and he doesn’t seem worried.
“I take things one year at a time. I’ll keep going as long as I have this drive, this pleasure, and as long as I like football. I don’t think about my age or what’s going on in my life. It’s all about how I’m feeling physically. I’ll never make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m 33 years old and will be 34 in December. I keep playing because I’m becoming better and better, therefore I have to keep going. And, in order to get the most out of it, “he declares
“The United States of America appeals to me. There, football is improving all the time. But am I promising that I’ll sign there? I am now in Madrid “he adds, smiling once again.
Benzema can finally go for lunch after almost an hour of chatting about music, French TV shows (recent favorites: “Validé” and “Family Business”), and President Emmanuel Macron’s performance in the charity football match he participated the day before our interview. Later on, he’ll add two more home gym sessions, a special recuperation treatment, additional massages, and more preparation for the upcoming events.
Benzema’s rise to the top, his ability to remain there for so long and come so close to winning the Ballon d’Or, is not due to coconut water. It’s because of everything.
- 2020 ballon d’or
- ballon d’or 2020
- karim benzema