Zidane lauds selfless and 'important' Benzema

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Real Madrid fans have often given the striker a hard time, but his former manager insists he was vital to the team

Karim Benzema has been the target of significant criticism from Real Madrid fans in the last few years, but his former coach Zinedine Zidane was grateful for the striker's selflessness.

Benzema started to come under fire during the 2016-17 season, when he only managed to score 11 La Liga goals, 13 fewer than he managed in the previous campaign.

Things only got worse for Benzema last term, as he netted just five times in the league and was the subject of jeers from Madrid fans on several occasions.

Rumours swirled the club searched for a replacement to man the centre forward role during that span and continued through the summer. 

Zidane mostly stuck with the striker however, giving him 32 La Liga appearences and 25 starts, with his faith being rewarded in the Champions League final, when Benzema's pressing caused a Loris Karius error for the first goal of the 3-1 Madrid victory.

Things have continued to improve for Benzema since, as following the pre-season departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, the striker already appears to be rediscovering his touch in front of goal, having scored four in three La Liga outings.

And Zidane, who routinely found himself asking Madrid fans to back the former Lyon man, is adamant Benzema was never a hindrance and improved the team with his ability to knit attacks together.

Speaking to UEFA, Zidane said: "Karim was important for the balance of the side in terms of how I wanted the team to attack.

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"He helped to implement our possession game by playing his team-mates in. He makes himself available and is a real team player."

Next up for Benzema and Real Madrid after the international break is a match against Athletic Bilbao, followed by the opening of their 2018-19 Champions League campaign, and quest for a fourth straight title, against Roma.

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