Football

Zinedine Zidane ‘advice’ ended Manchester United’s Karim Benzema transfer hopes

Karim Benzema scored twice, including Real Madrid’s 1,000th goal in Europe’s top club competition, as the Spanish powerhouse defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 to take the lead in its Champions League group on Wednesday.

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has said the club came close to signing Karim Benzema back in 2009.

Benzema made the switch from Lyon to Real Madrid 12 years ago and while he’s not always been unanimously popular with the Santiago Bernabeu faithful, he is currently one of the best players on the planet.

The forward has won four Champions League titles with Los Blancos and has taken on a number of different roles in the iconic all-white colours.

When Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were at the club, Benzema was a perfect foil for the pair, occupying defenders and creating space for the dynamic wingers to surge into.

But after the departure of Ronaldo and Bale, he has seized responsibility as the main man at the club.

In 14 appearances across La Liga and the Champions League in 2021-22, the 33-year-old has registered an incredible 13 goals and eight assists.

Speaking to BT Sport, Ferdinand expressed his admiration for the France international and revealed it was Benzema’s compatriot Zinedine Zidane who played a big role in the striker ending up in Madrid instead of Manchester 12 years ago.

“I absolutely love Benzema,” said the former defender. “I played against him when he was a young player at Lyon. I was hugely impressed and Manchester United were trying to sign him then but he went to, under Zidane’s words and advice, Madrid.

“It looks like it has been a match made in heaven. What I love about Benzema is that he is a player who could possibly be one of the most humblest players.

“He sacrificed a lot of his own game because he knew what Cristiano brought and he knew Cristiano would enable him to win more if he sacrificed his own game. That is a big thing to do for a player knowing how good he is.”

The summer of 2009 also saw Ronaldo join Madrid, along with Kaka and Xabi Alonso.

Despite that lavish spend, Ronaldo and Benzema had to wait until 2014 to savour Champions League glory before Zidane returned to the club as manager and won the European Cup three times between 2016 and 2018.

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