'Cristiano Ronaldo inspired him': Karim Benzema's former team-mate explains why the striker has improved with age

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the 2018 Champions League final
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Karim Benzema is the current holder of the Ballon d'Or and still arguably the best striker in Europe at the age of 35, having enjoyed the best years of his career in recent campaigns. 

In last season's Champions League especially Benzema flourished, scoring crucial winning goals and hat-tricks on the way to the final, ending the tournament as top scorer with 15 strikes, numbers which are reminiscent of his former Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to Florent Malouda, who played with Benzema when he first broke into the Lyon first-team in 2004 and for the French national team, the Real Madrid marksman took inspiration from Ronaldo during their time together, something he believes is evident now as he reaps rewards in his mid-30s. 

"To reach the very height of the game, you must understand what can give you the edge over the very best," Malouda explained to ICE 36. "You must work harder than everyone else and Karim understood that. 

"I also think that Cristiano Ronaldo had a big impact on him - the way he trains, his dedication - he was inspired by that. You can now see the results. He is 35 but he is still improving. 

"He has proven that anything is possible - age is not a limit - and this season, especially with what happened with the French national team (Benzema recently retired from playing for France after a long hiatus from the squad. He was picked for the World Cup team but got injured on the eve of the tournament and did not make any appearances in Qatar) he will use that as motivation."

Former Real Madrid player Paco Gento is the only footballer to have ever won six Champions Leagues/European Cups, also achieved with Real Madrid in the 1960s. Along with Luka Modric and Dani Carvajal, Benzema is targeting his sixth European trophy this season.

First, though, Real Madrid will have to beat Chelsea in the quarter-finals, before facing either Manchester City or Bayern Munich. 

Malouda, who won the 2012 Champions League himself with Chelsea, offered players of his former side advice on how to deal with Benzema, suggesting the best way to keep him quiet is excelling at their own game. 

"My advice to the Chelsea players is you can’t make a plan to stop Benzema," Malouda said. 

"The best way is to play with your identity and to play as a team. Don’t look at individuals to stop specific players, work as a team in a unit. Benzema doesn’t need many opportunities to score, the best way to stop him is to score more goals than Madrid."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.