Karim Benzema's ongoing exile from the France team is "a shame" and "kind of a mess", but Olivier Giroud insists he has nothing but respect for his fellow striker.

Real Madrid forward Benzema has not played for Les Bleus since 2015 having been kept out of the set-up due to his alleged involvement in a plot to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena.

Giroud has established himself as a key part of France's attack in his absence and is set to earn his 100th cap in a friendly against Ukraine on Wednesday.

Since being dropped, Benzema has been heavily critical of Giroud's presence up front for Les Bleus. Asked to rate the Chelsea striker on social media last April, Benzema said: "You don't confuse F1 with go-karting … and I know I'm F1."  

But Giroud insists he has no issue with the former Lyon star, who he regrets has been consigned to the international wilderness for so long.

"Clearly, it's a shame, because Karim remains an impressive player for his qualities," Giroud told RMC.

"Me, I never had a dispute with him, history wanted us to be opposed. I've always had a good understanding with him, a lot of mutual respect ... at least from me towards him.

"I think it's a shame everything that has happened, it's kind of a mess, but now we have to move on. The English envy us a lot of this young generation which is growing up."

Giroud was part of the France squad that won the World Cup in 2018 and feels he has proved he merits his place in the team, with a "supposed rivalry" with Benzema manufactured in the media.

"At the time, when I was unfairly criticised because of Karim's absence, it hurt me," he said.

"I continued to prove that I deserved my place and that this supposed rivalry with Karim was created from scratch by some people.

"I had nothing to do with it, we just play the same position. It happened but I reacted well to these difficulties."

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid overcame Levante 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.

After netting the winner against Real Valladolid in midweek, Vinicius scored in successive LaLiga games for the first time in his career.

The Brazilian spurned a couple of chances at the Estadio de la Ceramica to add to his tally after Benzema struck the post early in the second half. Levante also had opportunities – Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar in the first half and Thibaut Courtois twice kept out Enis Bardhi around the hour mark.

But Levante's push for an equaliser was punished in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema and the striker got off the mark this season with an emphatic finish at the end of a fast break.

Madrid moved in front in the 16th minute when a corner fell to Vinicius at the back post and he made the most of not being closed down by bending a delightful effort into the far side of the net.

The champions struggled to create further openings and only the bar stopped Vukcevic restoring parity after he climbed above Nacho Fernandez – deployed at right-back with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola out injured – to get his head on Jose Campana's corner.

Madrid showed greater urgency after the restart and, in the space of four minutes, Benzema struck the base of the post before Vinicius shaved the upright and missed the target from six yards out.

Levante were unperturbed and Bardhi saw a 25-yard thunderbolt parried by Courtois, who then kept out the midfielder's next effort, which took a deflection off Casemiro, with his leg.

Sergio Ramos had a goal ruled out for offside but Madrid put the game beyond doubt when Benzema showed great composure to polish off a swift counter-attack.

 

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid overcame Levante 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.

After netting the winner against Real Valladolid in midweek, Vinicius scored in successive LaLiga games for the first time in his career.

The Brazilian spurned a couple of chances at the Estadio de la Ceramica to add to his tally after Benzema struck the post early in the second half. Levante also had opportunities – Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar in the first half and Thibaut Courtois twice kept out Enis Bardhi around the hour mark.

But Levante's push for an equaliser was punished in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema and the striker got off the mark this season with an emphatic finish at the end of a fast break.

Sergio Ramos' late penalty secured Real Madrid their first win of the 2020-21 LaLiga season as Los Blancos won 3-2 at 10-man Real Betis, for whom Barcelona-owned Emerson endured something of a nightmare.

Zinedine Zidane's men began their title defence with an underwhelming 0-0 stalemate with Real Sociedad, and while they were only marginally better in Seville, they just about made the most of their numerical advantage.

Madrid initially looked good value for their lead when Federico Valverde prodded them in front, but Betis showed excellent resilience to turn it around.

Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho did the damage in a three-minute salvo, the latter netting in successive games having not scored in his first 57 outings for the club.

Things began to look up for Madrid early in the second half when Emerson found his own net before then getting sent off, and Los Blancos completed the win thanks to Ramos' spot-kick eight minutes from time.

Thibaut Courtois is confident Real Madrid are not short of goals despite struggling to a goalless draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

LaLiga's reigning champions began the new campaign with a frustrating stalemate in which Courtois had to make a brilliant one-on-one stop from Alexander Isak to preserve a point.

That was the clearest opening of the match, although Karim Benzema miscued when he looked set to strike moments before Isak ran through at the other end.

Benzema was supported by Martin Odegaard in an advanced midfield role, but Madrid - still missing Eden Hazard and having moved on Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez - could not forge a breakthrough despite mustering 16 shots in total.

Courtois told Movistar: "Of course we've got goals. You see it in training, you see it in the last pre-season friendly we had against Getafe [a 6-0 win].

"But sometimes the ball just doesn't want to go in. I don't have any doubt there are plenty of goals in this team."

The goalkeeper was encouraged by his team-mates' work to subdue Sociedad, who had just 32 per cent of the possession and were restricted to six attempts.

"If we don't concede too many goals and we can order ourselves and be difficult to score against, we have at the other end of the pitch Karim Benzema, who always plays at a very high level and didn't have any luck tonight," Courtois said.

"It's always important for us to keep a clean sheet. That's the way it went after lockdown. It ended up that many of our games were without conceding."

Despite his failure to inspire victory, it was a big night for Odegaard, making his full league debut for Madrid against the side he played for on loan last season.

The 21-year-old had one blocked shot and contributed two key passes.

"It was a very special game for me. I was playing against friends, good people. Very special," Odegaard said. "I felt good, but obviously the victory was missing."

Stand-in Sociedad captain Mikel Oyarzabal said of his former team-mate: "Martin knows he's much loved here, but today we didn't want things to go too well for him.

"I'm sure he'll soon show his quality for Real Madrid."

Lyon sporting director Juninho conceded Memphis Depay is in a strong position as Barcelona chase the star captain, while he said the Ligue 1 outfit are dreaming of Karim Benzema's return.

Depay is a target for embattled LaLiga giants Barca following the appointment of former Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman, while Serie A team Roma have also been linked.

The 26-year-old former Manchester United forward, who opened the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season with a hat-trick last month, is out of contract in 2021.

Juninho discussed Depay's future at Groupama Stadium amid Barca's pursuit, telling RMC Sport: "We haven't received an official offer from Barca.

"Memphis, before his serious injury, received an offer from the president [Jean-Michel] Aulas to extend his contract, but he wanted to take his time. 

"When a young player aged 26 has one year left on their contract and Barca are following him... Memphis is in a strong position."

Netherlands international Depay scored 15 goals in 22 games for Lyon last season despite suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in December, as the French side reached the Champions League semi-finals.

"If an offer arrives, we will have to think about it," Juninho said. "We could keep him for another year as captain and lose him for free next year. The president could make an effort to extend [his deal], but I think it will be difficult. 

"Memphis didn't ask anything from us before going with the national team. He told me he hadn't received any call from Barca." 

Juninho, meanwhile, expressed his desire for Real Madrid's Benzema to re-join boyhood club Lyon.

Benzema emerged from Lyon's youth system in 2004, going on to win four Ligue 1 titles among other honours before moving to Madrid in 2009.

The 32-year-old has enjoyed great success at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has claimed three LaLiga trophies and four Champions League titles as part of his silverware haul of 18.

Benzema is contracted to Madrid until 2022 but Juninho – who played alongside the Frenchman at Lyon – said: "It is our dream for Karim to finish up with us.

"It is the dream of everyone [at OL] to bring him back for two seasons, to play in the Champions League with us, be a leader, score goals, bring us his experience and help us to win matches."

Raul Jimenez is an "ideal" team-mate for Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, according to Fabio Capello.

Wolves star Jimenez has been linked with a move to the Serie A champions after scoring 27 goals in 55 games in 2019-20.

Capello believes the Mexico international can play a similar role to what Karim Benzema produced for Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

"Juve's problem is that they have to sell players and give up players and then turn to the market," the former Juve and Madrid coach told ESPN. 

"I have seen Raul Jimenez, he is an important player who has a lot of quality.

"He is an ideal player to play with Cristiano Ronaldo, because Cristiano has lacked a Benzema at Juventus. This could be Raul Jimenez."

Ronaldo netted 37 times in 46 games during the 2019-20 season, but Juve crashed out in the Champions League last 16 before Maurizio Sarri was sacked as coach.

Capello believes the coronavirus-enforced break impacted Juve, who will be led into the new campaign by Andrea Pirlo.

"It was not done because they arrived after the break and the team was not the same," he said.

"They lowered their physical condition a lot, the only one who got to the game well against Lyon was Cristiano Ronaldo. The quality, the strength, the organisation of the team was lacking, that's why I think they changed the coach.

"The team that everyone believed could be with CR7 has not been seen, the new game system that everyone saw with Napoli from Sarri was not seen with Juve."

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane took the blame for this side's Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City on Friday.

Pep Guardiola's side won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to claim a 4-2 aggregate victory and reach the quarter-finals, where they will face Lyon.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead after Varane lost possession to Gabriel Jesus in just the ninth minute of the game.

Karim Benzema equalised but Jesus restored City's advantage after Varane made a mess of a header and then failed to nod the ball back to Thibaut Courtois.

It was a rare poor performance from the France international, who was without usual centre-back partner Sergio Ramos due to suspension, and he was prepared to accept responsibility.

"This defeat is mine. I have to assume that. This defeat is my responsibility," he told Movistar.

"We prepared well for it, but mistakes cost you. I can't explain the mistakes - it can happen in football.

"I'm sad for my team-mates. Until the 1-1, we had a chance to go through and today it didn't go well.

"This has not happened to me very often before. You have to have character to come back stronger."

The defeat marked the first time Zinedine Zidane has lost a Champions League knockout tie as boss, but he maintains Madrid's LaLiga title triumph means their season has been positive.

"Unfortunately, he [Varane] made a couple of errors, we can't be happy, obviously," Zidane said.

"We've lost a game and we're knocked out. We're proud of what we've achieved throughout the whole season. This is football. We've lost this game against a good side. You have to accept it.

"We had chances to score. The second half, we were a little bit better. Ninety-five per cent of what we've achieved this season has been excellent. Today, we've played against a good team and we have to accept it."

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus sent Manchester City into the Champions League quarter-finals as a 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid on Friday sealed a 4-2 aggregate win.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg of their last-16 tie in February, City hit the front early on at the Etihad Stadium when Raphael Varane gift-wrapped Raheem Sterling his 100th goal for the club.

Karim Benzema's fine header restored parity in the 28th minute, only for Varane to again cost Madrid midway through the second half.

Jesus was the benefactor of the centre-back's second calamity of the game, with a quarter-final clash against Lyon the reward for City.

Varane's nightmare started in the ninth minute, with the France international playing himself into trouble, Jesus robbing possession and teeing up Sterling for a simple finish.

Sterling very nearly had his 101st goal in sky blue moments after, but his chipped effort dropped just over the bar.

Ederson had to make two fine saves as Madrid fought back, but City did not heed the warning, and the visitors were on level terms when Benzema headed in from Rodrygo's cross.

Sterling could have done better with a shot into the side netting following the restart, before Thibaut Courtois denied Kevin De Bruyne direct from a corner.

Courtois was in action again with 25 minutes remaining, tipping Jesus' effort over, but City had their second soon after.

Having messed up his initial header, Varane put nowhere near enough power on his nod back to Courtois, with Jesus nipping in to prod home cleverly from a tight angle.

Handed an Etihad farewell in the final stages, David Silva was inches away from making it 3-1 with a dipping free-kick, but City ultimately settled for what they had as they knocked out the 13-time European champions.

 

What does it mean? Jekyll and Hyde City must sharpen up to break Champions League duck

Sterling's opener was City's 150th Champions League goal, in their 76th appearance in the competition, yet they then conceded their 100th goal in the tournament under 20 minutes later.

If they are to end their wait for Europe's top club trophy this season, City's defence must give more support to their stellar forwards.

Century up for Sterling

Though the goal was gaping, Sterling still showed real composure to nudge City ahead early on, and in doing so he became the 17th player to reach a century of goals for the Citizens and the first Englishman since Dennis Tueart in 1981.

Varane horror show proves decisive

With Sergio Ramos suspended, the pressure was on Eder Militao heading into Friday's clash, yet it was his experienced defensive partner Varane who was left red-faced after his two errors resulted in both of City's goals.

What's next?

Lyon, who knocked out Juventus on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw, are next up for City on August 15 in Lisbon, while Madrid's focus will switch to the new season.

Cristiano Ronaldo would have made Real Madrid favourites to overturn a first-leg deficit in their Champions League tie against Manchester City, according to Emmanuel Adebayor. 

Los Blancos lost 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the last-16 clash at the back end of February, with the return meeting postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Madrid were outstanding when LaLiga resumed in June, though, winning 10 and drawing their final game en route to beating Barcelona to the title, their first since the 2016-17 season. 

Former City and Madrid striker Adebayor says Zinedine Zidane's side still have the players capable of turning the tie around but the presence of Ronaldo – who won the Champions League four times with the Spanish club before departing for Juventus in 2018 – would have significantly increased their chances. 

"If you had asked me that question two years ago, I would have said yes [Madrid can turn the tie around]," Adebayor told AS.  

"Madrid would have been favourites with Cristiano. Back then, they had Cristiano, who is a goal machine. He can make the difference at any moment and he would give the team 50 goals a season.  

"They lost the first leg at home and it's going to be very difficult without the fans, against Manchester City, the city, the weather but it's not impossible. 

"Madrid have players with a lot of experience like Marcelo, [Karim] Benzema, [Thibaut] Courtois and they are used to playing in big games like this one." 

Adebayor believes Madrid did not fully appreciate how difficult it would be to replace a player such as Ronaldo, who became the club's record goalscorer during nine prolific seasons. 

"Without Cristiano, Madrid know what they have lost, but maybe not what they could have won if he was still there," he added.  

"I think maybe they thought they would get another player like Ronaldo but players like him only come along once every 200 years." 

Karim Benzema has taken on much of the scoring burden and has surpassed 20 LaLiga goals in the past two seasons. 

Adebayor says the French striker is crucial to Madrid, saying: "When Ronaldo left, he had to take up the responsibility and I think he's done really well.  

"He's scored a lot of goals, important goals so he'll be a danger, no doubt about it." 

Adebayor's stint in the Spanish capital was a short one and game time was limited under Jose Mourinho. However, he has nothing but fond memories of the Portuguese coach, describing him as the best ever. 

"I love Mourinho, we had a great relationship and he was the one who brought me to Madrid, although it wasn't easy for him to find a place for me in the side," he said.  

"The only trophy I have ever won was at Madrid with him. Now he's at Tottenham and I wish him the best of luck. He is the best coach in the history of football." 

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema had a simple answer when asked if he fancies a crack at mixed martial arts after his football career comes to an end: "No problem for me, I'm up for it!"

Benzema, 32, enjoyed a brilliant campaign for Madrid, scoring 21 goals and providing eight assists as Los Blancos beat Barcelona to the LaLiga title.

Such form suggests Benzema still has plenty of legs left in football yet, even though he may be approaching the twilight years of his career.

But there are other challenges that appeal to the French striker, including it seems having a go at the fight game.

Benzema took questions from several friends for a YouTube video, one of which came from French kickboxer Fouad Ezbiri, who he has trained with in the past.

Ezbiri asked if Benzema - a fan of fight sports - ever had plans to step in the ring at least once.

"Well Fouad my broski, in any case I hope you're doing good, and it's true that I love fighting sports," Benzema said. 

"I love training, as you say we already trained, after the soccer why not train with you for six months and if you think I can be ready for a fight, no problem for me, I'm up for it!"

Benzema also responded to a separate question about how much longer he feels he has left in football.

"I'm working a lot. I pay attention to everything I do, I take care of myself and I'm trying to get the best out of me as possible," Benzema added. 

"I know this is not the beginning of my career but in any case, for me, age does not mean anything and yeah we're going to do everything."

Benzema also revealed three major sporting influences of his, saying: "It depends there are many people who have inspired me but we'll take soccer for example. It's Ronaldo, the Brazilian, so he's the one who made me love football, simply. It's thanks to what he did but everyone knows it. 

"Then athletic, although I'm not a big fan of basketball, but I would say Michael Jordan for what he did, what he has been with the Chicago Bulls. And then another athlete I would say Mike Tyson, there you go Mike Tyson, because it's the power."

Real Madrid team-mate James Rodriguez pondered whether Benzema prefers scoring or assisting a team-mate.

"I'll answer you sincerely. Making assists or scoring goals are two different things but not that different and I like to do both," he said. 

"To choose, I choose to score. On the other hand if my partner is good and sure to score I'll pass him the ball and offer him the goal. So, I choose both my brother."

Fabio Capello believes the burden of wearing the Real Madrid shirt proved too much for Eden Hazard in his debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Former Chelsea winger Hazard made a €100million move to Spain ahead of the 2019-20 season, but injuries blighted his first campaign with Los Blancos.

He made 14 starts and 16 appearances in total in LaLiga, scoring only once and managing a modest three assists.

That was way down on the form of his final season at Chelsea, where he netted 16 times and had 15 assists in 37 Premier League games, including 32 starts.

"Of course, he hasn't been the same as he was at Chelsea," former Madrid head coach Capello told Marca. "He has been injured for a long time, he has not adapted.

"I've always thought of him as a great player. But let's be clear, the Real Madrid shirt weighs a lot and Hazard has sunk this year. It is clear that next season will be much better."

Hazard himself admitted it had been "the worst season of my career", even though it was a title-winning campaign with Madrid.

The success owed a large part to the intrepid forward play of Karim Benzema, who finished second, behind Lionel Messi, in the Pichichi reckoning after hitting 21 goals.

Benzema's leadership of Madrid's attack was priceless, given Hazard was not the only forward who struggled for form.

Others who contributed little to the goals tally included Gareth Bale, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic, who between them netted just nine times.

Capello, who has had two spells in charge of Madrid and also led the likes of Milan, Roma, Juventus, England and Russia, was full of praise for Benzema, describing his efforts as "sensational".

The French striker joined Madrid in 2009 from Lyon, and is going from strength to strength in his thirties.

"He has become the benchmark for Real Madrid. Undoubtedly the best," Capello said. "He has taken the responsibility that he did not have when he was with Cristiano Ronaldo.

"For me, it was the best season since he arrived."

French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet praised Real Madrid star Karim Benzema for his "exceptional season".

Benzema has scored 26 goals in 47 games this season to help Madrid win LaLiga, while they are in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Despite his form, Benzema last played for France in 2015 and Le Graet said in November last year the forward had played his last game for the national team.

But the FFF president was still full of praise for the 32-year-old's performances this season.

"He's had an exceptional season with Real," Le Graet told RMC Sport on Thursday.

"I have already congratulated [Zinedine] Zidane who is his coach. He is one of the best players today, over the season he has just completed.

"The best? It is not up to me to judge because I haven't seen all the games, but in my opinion he had the best season of his career."

Madrid are due to be in action next on August 7, when they will face Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The Premier League giants recorded a 2-1 win in the first leg.

Luka Modric has described Sergio Ramos as a "phenomenon" and says the Real Madrid captain is the best defender in the world.

Ramos led Madrid to his fifth LaLiga title this season, scoring 11 times in the top flight - a record for a defender in the 21st century.

The 34-year-old has won 22 trophies with Los Blancos since joining from Sevilla in 2005 and remains integral to Zinedine Zidane's plans, with many suggesting he could have been in the running for the Ballon d'Or this year before the 2020 award was cancelled.

Modric, who has become a good friend of Ramos since moving to the Spanish capital in 2012, says there can be no doubting his quality.

"My brother Sergio is a phenomenon," he told Sportske Novosti. "And I'm not just saying that because in eight years we've created a really special relationship, we hang out as families, go on holiday together, or because we've had fantastic footballing experiences and successes together.

"Ramos is a 34-year-old rock, a top-level competitor, and when you watch him working on himself, it's clear how dedicated he is and how hungry he is for success. He's a team leader and the best defender in the world."

Madrid's title triumph was also inspired by the form of Karim Benzema, whose 21 goals earned his side 16 points in the title race.

Modric believes Benzema is now starting to get the recognition he deserves.

"Now, everyone has finally realised what we players have known for a long time," he said. "Benzema is a top striker who is a pleasure to play with. His understanding of the game, movement, disrupting the balance of the opposition defence, is something special.

"Benzema has always done a great job for the team and I am just glad that he has now experienced a general standing ovation and great satisfaction from people recognising his class."

Madrid trailed Barca at the top of the table when LaLiga was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a run of 10 wins in a row and a draw with Leganes on the final day saw them finish five points clear.

Modric felt there were signs when the team returned to training that they had a good chance of overhauling Barca.

"I've already won 16 trophies at Real, four Champions Leagues, but this LaLiga title made me especially happy," he added.

"We definitely should have had more domestic titles because we threw away some championships in a very clumsy way.

The 2019-20 LaLiga season is over. Having started way back last August, Real Madrid were finally crowned champions 11 months later.

A campaign interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic led to schedule changes and empty stadiums, yet football offered a welcome positive for a country hit hard by COVID-19.

Madrid excelled upon the resumption, overtaking Barcelona on their way to securing a 34th title in their illustrious history, albeit a first since 2017.

Unsurprisingly in the Opta LaLiga team for 19-20, the newly crowned champions are well represented. It should also not come as a shock to see a certain number 10 from their rivals make the line-up, too.

However, who else statistically stacked up during the campaign? Take a look at the final XI.

1. THIBAUT COURTOIS (REAL MADRID)

The last line of defence for Zinedine Zidane's title winners, Courtois stopped 79.2 per cent of the shots he faced (76/96), the highest percentage among goalkeepers with at least 10 games played. The Belgian finished with 18 clean sheets, one more than Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak.

2. JESUS NAVAS (SEVILLA)

Now in his second spell with Sevilla after returning from Manchester City, Navas was converted into a more defensive role. Still, the Spain international remained a key attacking outlet for his team - he tried (232) and completed (55) the most crosses into the penalty area in LaLiga. 

3. PERVIS ESTUPINAN (OSASUNA)

On loan from Watford, Ecuador international Estupinan was a key member of an Osasuna squad that not only survived but thrived on their return to the top flight, finishing in 10th place. He was the only defender to attempt over 100 dribbles, while also recovered the ball a league-high 275 times.

4. SERGIO RAMOS (REAL MADRID)

Madrid's captain led from the front, despite playing at the back. Ramos contributed 11 goals - the most by a defender in a single season in the 21st century, surpassing Mario Pernia's tally of 10 with Getafe in 2005-06. The 34-year-old was on target in the final game against Leganes, his 650th appearance for Los Blancos.

5. DIEGO CARLOS (SEVILLA)

Centre-back Carlos excelled for Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla, helping them secure Champions League football by finishing fourth. His total of 174 clearances topped the list, while he was the only one to have made over 100 clearances with his head. It is hardly surprising, then, that he has been linked with a big-money move elsewhere.

6. CASEMIRO (REAL MADRID)

A defensive-minded midfielder, Casemiro was crucial in laying the foundations for Madrid's attacking talent to shine. The Brazilian recovered more balls in LaLiga than any other player and made 60 successful tackles. There was also the occasional goal too, including a brace that proved the difference in a 2-1 win over Sevilla in January.

7. LUCAS OCAMPOS (SEVILLA)

A third representative from Sevilla, Ocampos proved to be another transfer masterstroke from sporting director Monchi. Having arrived from Marseille for a reported fee of €15million, the winger tried 180 dribbles, completing 67. Only Lionel Messi (283) had more attempts, while no Sevilla player has reached such a number since 2003-04.

8. TONI KROOS (REAL MADRID)

A mainstay at Madrid now since joining from Bayern Munich in 2014, Kroos is a league winner for a second time in Spain. The German midfielder is ridiculously reliable in possession, completing 93.5 per cent of his passes (2,184 out of 2,336 attempted). That is the highest percentage of any player who featured in at least 10 games.

9. KARIM BENZEMA (REAL MADRID)

Now centre stage in Madrid's attack with Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin, Benzema matched his 2018-19 total with 21 LaLiga goals. The Frenchman had the useful knack of making a crucial impact for his team in key moments - his scoring return was worth 16 points for Zidane's squad as they finished on top of the table.

10. LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

Of course Messi makes the XI. Barcelona failed to defend their title but their talisman was outstanding once again, becoming the only player to reach 20 goals (25) and also 20 assists (21) in the same season in the 21st century in LaLiga. His scoring exploits were enough to secure a seventh Pichichi award, as he finished ahead of Benzema.

11. SANTI CAZORLA (VILLARREAL)

Cazorla takes the final spot but will obviously not be in action in Spain's top-flight next season - he is heading to Qatar to continue his career with Al Sadd. Still, he signed off in style with Villarreal, providing the most assists (nine) for a midfielder while ranking third in terms of chances created (71). So long, Santi. Thanks for the memories.

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