Zinedine Zidane says it was a ‘great honour’ managing Karim Benzema at Real Madrid and hopes the veteran forward wins this year’s Ballon d’Or award.
Madrid went trophyless for the first time in over a decade last season but Benzema had his second-best year in front of goal for the Spanish giants, scoring 30 goals in all competitions.
The 33-year-old France international was rewarded with a place on the star-studded 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or which was announced earlier this month, with Madrid team-mate Luka Modric – the 2018 winner – also included.
Lionel Messi is the favourite to defend his crown and lift the prestigious prize for a record seventh time, while Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are also being tipped as a serious contenders following Chelsea’s Champions League triumph.
But Madrid legend Zidane, who both played for and managed the club, feels fellow countryman Benzema should come out on top at next month’s glitzy ceremony in Paris.
‘Benzema deserves the Ballon d’Or. He’s an incredible player,’ he told Telefoot.
‘I’ve had the great honour of managing him. He can do it all on a pitch.
‘He’s a cut above, and I hope he’ll be rewarded for it with this Ballon d’Or.’
Arsene Wenger was also full of praise for compatriot Benzema, but claimed there was no outright frontrunner for the award this year.
‘There are no untouchables this year,’ Wenger told the French publication.
‘In his individual performances and consistency, Benzema is at a top level.
‘The question is, does the weight of trophies play a decisive role?’
Brazilian great Ronaldo threw his support behind Benzema last week, describing the Frenchman as the best attacker on the planet.
‘Without a doubt, my candidate for the Ballon d’Or is Benzema,’ he said.
‘The best forward in the world, [an] incredibly high level for 10 years and a champion above all.
‘Worthy of the award, don’t you think?’