Zinedine Zidane has lauded Real Madrid icon Karim Benzema, saying that it was a privilege to coach him.
Benzema has departed the Santiago Bernabeu and joined Saudi giants Al Ittihad. The French striker became a Los Blancos during his 14 years with the La Liga giants. The 35-year-old scored 354 goals and provided 165 assists in 648 games across competitions.
Benzema bagged 108 goals and 49 assists in 217 games under Zidane at Real Madrid, winning three Champions League titles under his compatriot. Zidane has lauded the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner, telling Telefoot's Berniaud Sebastian:
"I had the great honour of being able to coach Benzema. He is a player who easily associates with others and who knows how to do everything on the pitch!"
Benzema won five Champions League, four La Liga and three Copa del Rey trophies with Madrid, playing a key role in their recent era of dominance in Spanish football and Europe.
The French forward leaves the Bernabeu for Al Ittihad, becoming the Saudi Pro League's latest big name to arrive in the Middle East. He follows in the footsteps of fellow Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr in January.
Zidane awarded Benzema the 2022 Ballon d'Or award last October during the ceremony in Paris. The former Madrid manager shed light on the similarities he and his 'little brother' share (via Be Soccer):
"I'm almost a big brother to Karim. That's what we both like to call each other: little brother and big brother. We really have a lot of things in common, from our origins. Our families come from nearby villages in Algeria, in the small Kabylia, we have spoken about it several times."
The renowned coach has been out of management since 2021 when he left the Bernabeu. Speculation is growing over his future with Paris Saint-Germain holding a long-term interest.
However, it's claimed that the Frenchman is waiting to become Les Bleus manager. He won't be coaching his former Los Blancos striker, though, as the soon-to-be Al Ittihad frontman retired from international duty in December.
Real Madrid considering Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappe as Benzema's replacement
Karim Benzema's departure leaves Real Madrid short of a center-forward at the Bernabeu. They're now heading into the summer transfer market with the signing of a striker on their agenda.
However, Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti and president Florentino Perez seem to be at loggerheads over their targets. According to Relevo (via Football-Espana), Ancelotti wants the La Liga giants to sign Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. The England captain has been in red-hot form this season, scoring 32 goals in 49 games. However, Spurs' €100 million valuation of the forward is putting Perez off.
Hence, Perez is eager to lure PSG's Kylian Mbappe to the Spanish capital next year. The Frenchman will likely become a free agent when his contract at the Parc des Princes expires.
He does have an option of a further year in his deal with the Parisians but is reportedly not expected to trigger it. The young frontman has enjoyed a prolific campaign, scoring 41 goals in 43 games.