Zidane delight for Benzema ahead of Liga title end game

MADRID – Zinedine Zidane expressed delight on Friday at his Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema’s France recall ahead of La Liga’s final round of matches with Real in contention to retain the title.

Benzema’s form this season — he has netted 29 times passing 20 league goals in all three seasons since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018 — has helped keep alive Real’s hopes of denying Atletico Madrid in Saturday’s final round of matches.

If Real down Villarreal and Atletico lose or draw at Valladolid then the Liga trophy will remain on the Santiago Bernabeu sideboard.

Benzema’s six-year exile with France over his alleged role in a sextape blackmail plot ended on Tuesday when he was named in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the delayed Euro 2020.

Zidane, who had previously questioned Deschamps’ logic in snubbing Benzema, said: “I’m thrilled that Karim can return to the France team

“It’s what he wanted. I’m thrilled because it was what he was hoping for.”

When asked at the eve-of match press conference if he had any part in his player’s reintegration he replied: “No, I had no role at all in Karim’s return.”

Zidane said Benzema had “always done everything” to be reunited with the World Cup winners.

He urged the court of public opinion on social media scrutinising Benzema and France’s performance at the European Championships to hold fire on his best player.

“I just hope that they will leave him alone. It’s not fair to say, ‘as we have the best player, if we win the European Championship he’s good, and then if we don’t win the European Championship, it will be because…’.

“I hope that they will not go into this stuff.

“I hope that we enjoy his football, and stop there, that’s enough.”

For Real’s closing game on Saturday Zidane welcomes back captain Sergio Ramos from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the last three games.

But there is a question mark over Eden Hazard’s fitness after the Belgian attacker missed Friday training.

“It’s nothing major but we don’t want to take any risks,” said Zidane, who denied media reports this week that he had told his players he would be stepping down from his second stint as boss of Real after Saturday’s finale.BSS/AFP