Karim Benzema has admitted Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid helped him return to his lethal best.
The 34-year-old France striker plundered 44 goals for the club last season as Real won the Champions League for the 14th time and romped to the LaLiga title by 13 points in perhaps his most effective season to date as he revelled in the key role handed to him by Carlo Ancelotti.
Benzema and Ronaldo played together successfully for nine seasons after joining the club just a few days apart in 2009, but the Frenchman is relishing his return to prominence.
Asked at Real’s UEFA Super Cup pre-match press conference if the Portugal skipper’s move to Juventus in 2018 had given him to chance to prove himself all over again, he said: “It’s been different for me since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid.
“It’s true that I’ve scored many more goals, but when Cristiano was here, we had a different style of play, I was providing more assists. He really helped me on and off the pitch.
“But at that time, I did know that I could do more and when he left, it was the time to change my game, change my ambitions and I am doing that well at the moment.”
Benzema’s immediate focus, however, is the task of securing the first of six trophies Real could win this season when they face Europa League holders Eintracht Frankfurt at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium.
🏆 Real Madrid meet Eintracht Frankfurt at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium on Wednesday for the UEFA #SuperCup.
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Asked about the possibility of a clean sweep, coach Ancelotti said: “What’s possible is battling and we will certainly give it a good go. I don’t know if we will win them – of course, that will be very tough.”
If Real, who beat Liverpool in last season’s Champions League final, head into the game with great expectations, opponents Eintracht, conquerors of Rangers in the Europa League, do so in some disarray after a humbling 6-1 Bundesliga defeat by Bayern Munich on Friday evening and with star man Filip Kostic heading for Juventus.
However, coach Oliver Glasner insisted they are not “scared” of their illustrious opponents.
Glasner said: “We want to play against this team, we want to show our best football. We will give our best on the pitch, that’s our approach.
“We’re not really scared, we have a lot of joy. We are really looking forward to it. We showed already last year on the European stage that there’s always a chance, and we want to take that chance.”
The game is the first competitive meeting between the clubs since the 1960 European Cup final, in which Ferenc Puskas scored four times and Alfredo Di Stefano three in a 7-3 victory for the Spaniards at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.