Benzema is the man of the moment. With ten goals in Madrid’s first ten official games, the Frenchman leads the white aspirations. Also those of France, along with Mbappé, facing tomorrow’s Nations League final at San Siro, against the Spanish National Team. He talks exclusively to AS about all that and more.
Was Belgium-France the best match of the year?
It sure has been one of the most exciting, yes. There were alternatives and it was not decided until the end. It may have been one of the best games of the year and I celebrate that people liked it, because that helps football continue to grow.
Will we see a similar show in the grand final between France and Spain, tomorrow at San Siro?
Hopefully so, that the game has the same level as ours against Belgium or, also, the one that had Spain vs. Italy, which was also a great game. But I’m sure it will be a great final. Spain is a very young team, but with a lot of talent and I hope we will see a beautiful and contested match that makes people happy, which is what we players want.
Finally, years later, it seems that people are beginning to understand Benzema’s football. Does it happen to all geniuses?
It may have been difficult for me, but the important thing is that now people enjoy my football and I feel happy and very proud. That is what gives me the strength to try things on the pitch, because I feel that support from the stands and that leads me to try to do beautiful things. We play for Real Madrid, which is everyone’s dream. And the fans of our club are very demanding and go to Santiago Bernabeu to see things that are not seen in other stadiums, and that must always be kept in mind.
More than a footballer, should a center forward be a great specialist?
It may be that way, but playing well is the most important thing. There are strikers today who are more effective when they are over thirty years old, maintain great form and can score many more goals, in addition to offering more football to the team. The football of now allows it.
His physical condition is spectacular. Can you tell us the secret of what you have done in recent years to be like this right now?
I work a lot in training, but I also do it at home. I prepare myself every week the best I can, with effort and intensity, thinking of being ready for the weekend’s games and the Champions League games. What is said that you play as you train is totally true.
“The fans are demanding, they come to see things that are not seen elsewhere”
About his style
Do you have any limits? How long would you like to play professionally, until you are 40?
Well, I go little by little. As I feel, each year I think about it. I can’t give an age, but what I do try is to do something more every year, to improve with each passing season.
And then, can you imagine being a coach?
I do not know if I will be a coach, if I will go to the benches. But what is certain is that I will always be linked to football, I will be close to football my whole life. That’s my plan.
Can your soccer be taught or is it an innate gift?
The most important thing is to watch fast football. You have to have the next move in your head before the previous one ends, and execute it at full speed. That is the great secret, and this cannot be taught. I know what I’m going to do before I get the ball. That comes to me since I was little, because I always played with other boys older than me, taller, stronger and faster. And that forced me to play like a game now, to think fast and execute the play as soon as I received the ball at my feet.
Honestly, do you have the legitimate dream of winning the Ballon d’Or?
Since I was little I have the dream of winning the Ballon d’Or, which is the dream that all footballers have. It is true that the most important thing is always the team, but when you help your team to win, when you make important plays and score many goals, the next thing is to have the Ballon d’Or in your head, in your mind. Of course I am going to do everything possible and I am going to work as hard as possible to have that great trophy, to hopefully win it one day and fulfill that dream that I have had since I was a child.
Do you enjoy playing with this Real Madrid, surrounded by boys who are barely of high school age?
Football is changing, and in Madrid there are many high-quality kids who are the future of the team and the club. They have to take responsibility for playing in the Real Madrid, which is the best club in the world, but in which you are obliged not to fail, to win and to win titles.
Do all these kids look at you with respect, as if Benzema were already a legend?
Young people see me as an older brother, but I like to help them in any way I can. I offer myself to give them things that can serve them, and I do it on and off the field. I do it with everyone also with Vinicius. They are all very young, but they have a lot of quality.
Which rival do you see stronger in the league for this season: Atlético, Barça, Sevilla, Villarreal …?
At this moment almost all the teams are more or less the same, under construction. We are at the beginning of the season and it is a moment in which each game is a final and in which the last classified can beat the first. It is a phase of the season in which any result can be achieved. All the teams he has said will be in the fight, also Real Madrid. At the moment we are still leaders, and what we can say is that we are going to work and fight to win this league championship, which will surely be very tough.
Do you have the conviction that the Sheriff’s thing was an accident and that Madrid is not in danger in Europe?
We have to forget about that as soon as possible. Like I said, this is just starting. The Sheriff played well, but won with just two shots on goal. Madrid did it more than thirty times. But it is true that there is no small enemy, and Madrid are always favorites and that forces them.
“He’s a freak and a good boy. I really enjoy playing with him.”
Was Benzema’s back control on his second goal against Celta on purpose? Maybe he had seen Ronaldinho do it …
It is true that it is a very typical control of Ronaldinho … The truth is that I did it on purpose. I knew or intuited that Alaba was going to put that ball on me, and I read the play. I did the control so that the ball stayed in front, ready for the shot and the goal. It was a play that was perfect.
Benzema arrived at Madrid with a classic Bernabéu, smaller than today, more uncomfortable, older in short … Now he plays in a monumental stadium. Is this work like a great signing for the club?
It is true that a lot has changed. With the great reform, the Santiago Bernabéu stadium today is like being in the future, but it is what the best club and the best fans in the world deserve. And all that is Real Madrid.
How about Mbappé, your attacking partner in France? Is he a good boy?
He is a young boy with a lot of quality. Mbappé is a phenomenon because of his football and because of his age. He’s very good, and he’s a very good boy. I really enjoy playing with him, and also with Griezmann, who moves well in small spaces. I have a great time when we play together with the France team. I love to play with them.
Do you think that Madrid will arrive in April in a good position to win titles, that it will be among the candidates in the final stretch of the season?
That is the objective, to be there to arrive with options to win titles. At Real Madrid we are all going to work to achieve it.