Karim Benezma says Brazilian legend Ronaldo was his role model growing up as he prepares to make his major tournament return with France.
Ronaldo is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time having won a string of honours during the 1990s and early 2000s, including two World Cups with Brazil and two Ballon d'Or awards.
Benezma concedes Ronaldo’s skills were “a level above” his own, but says he took great inspiration from the former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker during his early career.
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What did Benzema say about Ronaldo?
Asked by BeIN Sports about his idol Ronaldo, who scored 352 goals in 518 career club appearances, Benzema said: “I met him, I was lucky to meet him in Madrid. He was my role model, he still is.
“He is someone who made me believe in myself, to mirror the skills that he showcased, not in the same way or at the same pace, because he was at a level above me. But this type of attacker is what I like.
“He is the only player from whom I tried to take three or four things. So when I was young, that was when I really loved him. I had a VHS of him from 1996-97 when he was playing at Barca.
“I have always wanted to be a model attacker. Someone who knows how to score, but also to organise play, who knows how to play with the ball at his feet. One touch, make movements, stay in the box. A bit of everything.”
Benzema ‘not yet finished’
Benzema has not featured at a major tournament for France since the 2014 World Cup having been dropped by coach Didier Deschamps in 2016 due to his alleged involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal.
However, he is now back in the international fold and joins a Les Bleus squad highly fancied to add the European Championship to the World Cup they lifted in Russia three years ago.
At 33, Benzema is approaching the final years of his career, though the Real Madrid striker insists there is still plenty more to come.
"I have not yet finished,” he added. “I feel good with the man I am, the man I have become.
“I think there have been highs and lows. I have never wanted to be at the highest high or lowest low, I just want to be level.”
France open their Euro 2020 campaign against Germany in Munich on Tuesday, though Benzema is a doubt for that game after limping off with a knee injury in the first half of last week's friendly win against Bulgaria.