MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed his forward Karim Benzema as the best French striker of all time after his two goals helped them beat a stubborn Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at home on Tuesday in La Liga.
Madrid played the final 77 minutes with an extra man after Raul Garcia’s early red card, but the visitors did not make life easy for the champions and Ander Capa scored in the second half to cancel out Toni Kroos’s opening strike.
Benzema, however, showed his class late in the game, restoring Madrid’s lead by heading in a Dani Carvajal cross before rounding off the victory by finishing off a rapid counterattack in added time.
The coach was asked if his compatriot was the best French striker ever after the game and he had no doubts.
“For me he is the best, because he has spent so long at Real Madrid and he keeps proving himself,” Zidane told a news conference.
“He has played over 500 games and scored so many goals. His achievements and honours speak for themselves. For me he is the best, of course.”
Benzema has turned into a talismanic figure for Real since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018 but has not featured for France since 2015 following an incident involving his then national team mate Mathieu Valbuena.
But Zidane still ranked him above the likes of France greats Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and current players Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
“He is a more complete player now than he used to be. He is not a pure number nine, he doesn’t just think about scoring goals and that’s what I love about him,” Zidane added.
“He loves to combine with his team mates and create chances for them but he also knows how to score goals and he does that when the team needs him the most like he did today. That’s what Karim is all about.”