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'He's the best number nine in the world' - Odriozola backs under fire Benzema

18:09 GMT 11/12/2018
odriozola benzema - cropped
The France international is backed by Real Madrid team-mate Alvaro Odriozola after years of criticism

Alvaro Odriozola backed under pressure striker Karim Benzema, describing the Real Madrid striker as the best number nine in the world.

Benzema has faced significant criticism in recent seasons for a lack of goals, but the 30-year-old is Madrid's leading scorer in La Liga this season with five in 14 starts.

He has also managed a further three goals and two assists in five Champions League appearances, helping Santiago Solari's side secure top spot in Group G ahead of Wednesday's match at home to CSKA Moscow.

Odriozola had some high praise when asked to sum up his time working with Benzema this term.

"Before I came here, I already liked him, but now I'm in love with Karim," he told a news conference. "It's incredible to train with him. He's the best number nine in the world.

"It's true that there is criticism, but he has taken on a leadership role in the team."

Odriozola has managed to force his way into regular first-team action under Solari, having played just three times in La Liga during Julen Lopetegui's tenure.

The former Real Sociedad full-back is happy to have the backing of his boss, but insists he holds no grudges against Lopetegui, who was sacked in October.

"I'm feeling very good, very comfortable. It was a dream to come here. The work is paying off," he said.

"I have a lot more things to thank Julen for than to reproach him for. The answer was to work more. Now, I have more games, I feel the confidence of Santiago and now I have to return it on the pitch."