Karim Benzema wants to return to Lyon one day but is in no rush to leave Real Madrid because he has everything he could want at the Santiago Bernabeu, according to his former agent.

Benzema came through the academy at Lyon and spent five years with the senior side until joining Madrid in 2009, having established himself as one of Europe's most promising young players.

The Frenchman has gone on to enjoy huge success in his 11 years with Madrid, winning 17 trophies and scoring 246 goals.

For a while it looked like Benzema's Madrid career might peter out, with his record of just 16 LaLiga goals across the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons leaving a lot to be desired, and fans jeering him on a regular basis.

But he has enjoyed a resurgence over the past two years and has been vital to the club's form this term, with Los Blancos able to wrap up the 2019-20 LaLiga title on Thursday.

An exit certainly does not appear to be on the horizon, but the 32-year-old's former representative is adamant Benzema wants to return to Lyon in some capacity in future.

"Today, with the situation he lives at Madrid, he is at the height of what a footballer wants," Karim Djaziri told OLTV. "Playing at Madrid, being very close to your coach, adored by the public. Today, it is not possible [to return].

"But, since he left Lyon, Karim has only one desire, it is to return to Lyon. Will it be as a player? It remains a regret for Karim not to have gone further in the Champions League.

"When he left, OL made the semi-finals. When it was wrong with [Jose] Mourinho, he would say to me: 'I want to go back to Lyon.' I said to him: 'No, you're going to force it and you're going to get there', and he got there.

"It's in the back of his mind, I think it's possible. If he has legs and he thinks it's time to go and do something good, he'll come back.

"If he is not as a player, I see him returning to OL in another role perhaps. I know he really wants it."

Real Madrid's hunger to return from lockdown at their best is what has given them an advantage in the title race, Zinedine Zidane believes.

Madrid can win LaLiga for the first time in three seasons should they defeat Villarreal on Thursday, or if Barcelona drop points against Osasuna.

Los Blancos need only two points from their final two matches of the season to claim their 34th top-flight crown.

Zidane insists there is no complacency within his squad and lauded the desire with which his players returned with following the three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"No, not at all," Zidane said in a news conference when asked if his side already felt like champions.

"The beautiful thing we have is the energy we put in every day, day by day is what motivates us. The rest, we don't know what will happen.

"The players when they get here know the history of this club, what it is, what it wants, the ambition we always have.

"The particular thing about now is that after the confinement, when we returned to work, after staying home almost three months, the players wanted to do great things.

"You could see it in training. You could see it in games, but I see them in training, they trained phenomenally, they wanted to stay afterwards and that tells you everything."

Though his side require only two more points, due to their head-to-head record with Barca this term, Zidane is demanding victory.

"I would not want two draws. It is not what I prefer or not, it is that we are here for one thing, to think about tomorrow's game and win it," he added.

"It is what motivates us. We prepare for that. Villarreal knows how to play, it is a very difficult opponent, as always. I think it will be the most difficult of the last ones we have had."

Karim Benzema's sensational form has been a driving force in Madrid's title tilt, with the Frenchman having scored 19 LaLiga goals this season.

There have been suggestions Benzema should be in the running for this year's Ballon d'Or award and Zidane claimed every Madrid player could be worthy of the prize.

"In football, everyone can have a say. For me, my players are the best," Zidane said.

"Karim is not only this year, he has done very well for many years. The Ballon d'Or is won by only one, and everyone can comment, but for me all my players deserve it."

Zinedine Zidane has described Eden Hazard's predicament at Real Madrid as complicated after leaving the Belgium international as an unused substitute during Monday's 2-1 win at Granada.

Early goals from Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema set up a victory that moved Madrid to within touching distance of LaLiga glory.

Hazard arrived from Chelsea for €100m before the start of the campaign but injury struggles – most notably a broken ankle – have seen him play a minimal part this term.

The 29-year-old has been restricted to 15 league appearances and has only featured for eight minutes since back-to-back starts against Real Mallorca and Espanyol at the end of last month.

After a ninth consecutive victory, Zidane told reporters Hazard's fitness was still not up to scratch.

"A player has to be in very, very, very good shape to play and he's not fully okay," he said.

"The situation is a little bit complicated, but I hope that he can be 100 per cent fit on Thursday and help the team. That's what he wants."

Madrid host Villarreal on Thursday, knowing victory for themselves or anything less than three points for Barcelona will see them crowned champions.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane insisted the LaLiga trophy is still not secured after the league leaders took another giant step towards the title.

Madrid are one win away from dethroning two-time defending champions Barcelona following Monday's 2-1 victory at Granada.

Ferland Mendy's first goal for Madrid and Karim Benzema's strike restored Los Blancos' four-point advantage over bitter rivals Barca with two matches remaining.

Madrid can clinch just a second league title in eight seasons at home to Villarreal on Thursday, but Zidane avoided championship talk post-match.

"We had a very good first half, impressive with the ball," Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"The second half wasn't as good but that's because our opponents played.

"To get somewhere in LaLiga, you have to suffer a bit and we came through it was a team.

"We have to be proud of the team. We're got two games left and we haven't won anything yet.

"That's the reality, but there are six points left. When we started the season, we wanted to win LaLiga, but it hasn't arrived just yet."

Madrid raced out to a 2-0 lead after just 16 minutes through Mendy and Benzema, but the visitors were made to work by Granada.

Mendy slammed home a brilliant finish from a tight angle in the 10th minute to become the 21st Madrid player to score in LaLiga this season, while Benzema increased his top-flight tally this term to 19 six minutes later.

Granada's Darwin Machis reduced the deficit five minutes into the second half, however, Madrid survived to close in on the LaLiga crown.

"I shouted because I was happy and because you suffer in football," Zidane, who was heard screaming following the final whistle, added. "It was normal to shout because they were three very important points.

"I shouted to tell my players that they'd have an impressive game. I'm happy for them."

Real Madrid moved one win away from LaLiga glory with a hard-fought -1 victory over Granada at Los Carmenes on Monday. 

Goals from Ferland Mendy – his first for the club – and Karim Benzema restored Madrid's four-point advantage over Barcelona with two games remaining. 

Mendy slammed home a brilliant finish from a tight angle to become the 21st Madrid player to score in LaLiga this season, while Benzema increased his top-flight tally this term to 19 as he made it 2-0.

Although Darwin Machis pulled one back five minutes into the second half, Madrid survived a couple of late scares to make it nine straight victories and edge closer to a 34th LaLiga title. 

Mendy won the penalty that put Madrid on their way to a 2-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves last time out and he got them off to a great start again, beating Victor Diaz for pace and smashing into the roof of the net from an acute angle in the 10th minute. 

Benzema doubled the advantage following a swift counter-attacking move six minutes later, the Frenchman allowed time and space by Diaz to shift the ball onto his right foot and pick out the far corner.

Granada switched to a back four and quickly tested Thibaut Courtois, but Domingos Duarte's header was kept out of the bottom-right corner. 

Benzema had a powerful shot tipped over by Rui Silva before half-time and Granada reduced the deficit shortly after the restart, Machis firing under Courtois after Yangel Herrera caught Casemiro in possession. 

Zinedine Zidane responded to Granada's improvement by sending Rodrygo and Marco Asensio on for Federico Valverde and Isco just after the hour mark, with Madrid sitting back and consolidating. 

Substitute Antonin had an acrobatic volley kept out by Courtois before Ramon Azeez saw his 85th-minute effort blocked on the line by returning captain Sergio Ramos, ensuring the visitors secured three valuable points. 
 

What does it mean? Zidane shows adaptability 

Madrid moved away from their traditional 4-3-3, with Valverde, Luka Modric and Isco in a narrow line behind Benzema. Having five midfielders in the starting line-up enabled them to quickly take control of possession and evade Granada's press and counter-attacking threat. 

The hosts got more joy after coach Diego Martinez moved away from his back five, but Zidane introduced Rodrygo and Asensio to retain an attacking threat as Madrid focused on stifling their opponents. 

Brilliant Benzema 

The captain's armband may have returned to Ramos but Benzema led by example from the off, chasing back early on despite Madrid's wealth of midfielders. He took his goal sublimely and went close to a second before half-time. 

Double Diaz faults 

Diaz was slow to close Mendy down and was then beaten far too easily on the opener, while he was punished for giving Benzema ample time and space to pick his spot. He was replaced by Antonio Puertas at half-time. 

What's next? 

Madrid will be looking to clinch just a second title in eight seasons at home to Villarreal on Thursday, when Granada travel to relegation-threatened Real Mallorca. 

Zinedine Zidane sent a warm birthday message to James Rodriguez by insisting the Colombian could play a part in Real Madrid's future – but then left him out of his latest squad.

James, signed amid Galactico fanfare six years ago, has become almost a forgotten man with the Spanish giants, playing only a minor role in this season's LaLiga title charge.

His 78-minute run-out against Real Sociedad in June was a first LaLiga appearance for James since October, and he has not played since.

There are reports Madrid consider James superfluous to their needs and will look to sell him at the end of this campaign, with Manchester United among the clubs linked with him.

Zidane struck a different tone in his news conference ahead of Monday's match against Granada, even wishing James well on the attacking midfielder's birthday.

However, by later leaving James out of his 23-man squad for the Granada trip, the head coach's actions perhaps proved more telling than his words. 

"He is important, and he is ours," Zidane told reporters.

"He is 29 years old today and I congratulate him. It is true some play more and others less, but I will not look down on any player.

"Everyone brings something to the team. I can count on all of those I have."

James has just a year left on his Madrid contract and his influence has greatly diminished.

Before this season, he spent two years on loan at Bayern Munich, winning a pair of Bundesliga titles but not doing enough to secure a permanent transfer.

Signed from Monaco by Madrid in 2014 after a stellar World Cup, James was initially given the coveted number 10 shirt but now wears number 16, with his eight league appearances this season amounting to just 419 minutes on the pitch.

Zinedine Zidane is on the cusp of leading Real Madrid to a 34th LaLiga title, but the head coach continues to be plagued by the question of whether his team are anything special.

Two wins from their remaining three games over the coming week would be enough to clinch another Spanish league success, with Granada first up on Monday evening.

Madrid have been ruthless since the resumption, winning all eight games and conceding just two goals over that stretch.

It has meant previous leaders Barcelona, themselves also unbeaten over the past month, have seen a two-point advantage slip away due to three draws in their nine games.

But debate rages over the merits of this Madrid team, who arguably lack the panache of previous Los Blancos sides but have shown themselves to be a winning machine, unlike some of their more celebrated forebears.

"It doesn't bother me or surprise me, it's always the same debate," Zidane told a news conference on Sunday.

"We prove in every game and every training session that we are good. We have to show it. Everyone will give their opinion on what they think of Real Madrid because it is the most important club in history and this will never change."

Zidane, once the unpredictable flair player in Madrid's midfield, has become the straight man of the media room, a serious figure and a coach who has brought the best out of many of his players.

Rather than consider the prospect of another championship, with Villarreal on Thursday and Leganes on Sunday the other remaining games for Madrid, Zidane's focus does not deviate from the immediate task at hand.

"LaLiga and the Champions League are the goal and what we fight for, but it is useless if we look beyond tomorrow's game," he said.

"This is the last week and there are three games. It is the most difficult, but the most important. All the teams have things to play for and we want to put all our energy into tomorrow's game."

Zidane clearly finds the suggestion his team have had the better of VAR decisions over recent weeks to be thoroughly tedious, amid claims Barcelona have had a relatively raw deal.

"Everyone can give their opinion, I don't mess with the opinions of others," he said, when asked about the VAR talk.

"What we are doing is giving everything on the pitch and putting in a great effort every day. That is what I'm interested in."

Zinedine Zidane is unsure if James Rodriguez will play for Real Madrid ever again.

James, 28, has been linked with a move away from Madrid and was left out of the squad for Friday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Deportivo Alaves.

It marked the second straight game in which the Colombia international has not been in the squad.

Asked if James would play for Madrid again, Zidane told a news conference: "I don't know."

James arrived at Madrid from Monaco in 2014, but spent the previous two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich.

He has played just 14 games this campaign, scoring one goal.

Zinedine Zidane praised the "phenomenal" Thibaut Courtois after Real Madrid took another step towards the LaLiga title with a win over Deportivo Alaves.

Madrid kept a clean sheet for the fifth straight game, recording a 2-0 win on Friday to move four points clear of rivals Barcelona with three games remaining.

Zidane lauded Courtois, who made four saves in Madrid's win as Karim Benzema netted a penalty before Marco Asensio's second-half goal.

"He has a very big influence. He is our goalkeeper, what he is doing every game is phenomenal," Madrid coach Zidane told a news conference, via AS.

"It is a matter for everyone when it comes to defending … today, he [Courtois] has been good for us with two or three stops, and then the strength of the entire team.

"We have to continue like this."

Madrid scored a penalty for the third straight game, while the VAR was needed to award Asensio's goal after it was initially ruled out due to an offside decision against Benzema.

As another clean sheet helped Madrid, Zidane said he was happy with his team, who are away to Granada on Monday.

"I'm not worried because the important thing is to win matches," he said.

"We didn't score four or five goals, but because there is an opponent who defends. We scored two goals, one very beautiful in play.

"I am happy and calm with what we are doing."

Vinicius Junior has been included in Real Madrid's squad to face Deportivo Alaves on Friday.

The Brazilian winger has been in outstanding form for the LaLiga leaders since the season's restart, but his involvement in their next match was in doubt.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane revealed on Thursday that Vinicius had missed training to take a coronavirus test.

An initial test "went badly" - seemingly returning an anomalous result - and had to be repeated, Zidane said.

Madrid offered no update on Vinicius but named the 19-year-old among their 22-man group for the meeting with Alaves.

Zidane's side are a point ahead of Barcelona, who have played a game more.

Massimiliano Allegri says he had contact with Real Madrid over becoming their head coach two years ago, but wanted to stay loyal to Juventus.

The former Milan boss spent five successful years in charge of Juve prior to his exit at the end of last season.

After Zinedine Zidane left Madrid following the 2017-18 campaign, the club had short spells with Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari in charge.

Allegri was one of the other options pursued by the club and the Italian thanked Madrid president Florentino Perez for his interest at the time.

Madrid ultimately turned back to Zidane in March 2019.

"Two years ago, there was contact, but nothing came of it because I had a contract with Juve," Allegri said to Marca about Madrid's interest.

"Furthermore, I had a strong moral commitment to the club and its fans."

Allegri was asked what he likes most about the work Zidane is doing at Santiago Bernabeu, with a LaLiga title on the horizon as the delayed 2019-20 season nears its conclusion.

"The strength he has had in finding the indispensable balance of a team so full of class and talent," Allegri said.

"For me, the positioning of Casemiro has been a tactical masterclass from Zizou."

Discussing his own future, Allegri continued: "I've been charging my batteries [since leaving Juve] and enjoying time with my family and my city, Livorno, with my lifelong friends.

"I don't really care [if my next job is in Italy or abroad]. I'm looking for a club to share a project with and which has the ambition to compete to win."

And when questioned over whether he would like to coach in LaLiga, Allegri added: "Who in their right mind would say no to this question? No one.

"There is more pleasure of playing in LaLiga, no matter the result. After conceding a goal, the team keeps playing as if nothing has happened. 

"In Italy, on the other hand, there is much more love and attention for the details of the game and tactics. The brain almost always wins out over the heart, in general.

"[Italian football is more difficult] because of what I said before. The player doesn't have much freedom to enjoy themselves in a purely instinctive way and this sometimes makes it difficult."

Zinedine Zidane feels his Real Madrid players deserve more respect as he is "tired" of their victories being attributed to refereeing decisions.

Madrid celebrated a seventh straight win on Sunday as they prevailed 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao, moving seven points clear of rivals Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

However, their goal came courtesy of a Sergio Ramos penalty, awarded only after a VAR review highlighted Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo.

Iker Muniain revealed his frustration at the call after the match, echoing comments from Barca's Gerard Pique, who suggested the officials were making it difficult to stop Madrid winning the title.

Zidane bristled at the accusations, though, telling a news conference: "I am tired of being told that we won because of the referees.

"This is not going to change. But the players deserve respect. Nothing is going to take away from our goal."

The head coach accepted Madrid were not at their best at San Mames, yet he pointed to a tough schedule which saw the leaders in action against Getafe as recently as Thursday.

"Our strength is what I like the most. We are showing our strength and our balance when we lose the ball," Zidane said. "We are doing very well.

"We have lacked brilliance in attack and we can improve, but most important is our defensive strength.

"[The problems in attack are due to] a little bit of everything. It can be something physical, too. We play every three days.

"But I don't think it is our own thing; I think it is something for all the teams. There is a lot of difference between the beginning and the end."

Talk is turning towards when Madrid might clinch the title, with just four games to play and Barca struggling for form.

But Zidane is not getting ahead of himself, adding: "Until it is mathematically won, we cannot relax and think about the title.

"We have shown our strength and our solidity, but I am not going to talk about it, even if you ask me every day, because I already have a lot of experience in my career, also as a player, and all the games are difficult.

"What I can say is that winning seven games out of seven is impressive."

Zinedine Zidane insists Real Madrid are not prematurely celebrating despite taking significant steps towards LaLiga glory in recent weeks.

Barcelona have drawn three of their past four matches, with Madrid winning all of their games across the same period to open up a four-point advantage at the summit.

The Clasico rivals each have 15 points to play for, meaning Barca require a huge swing in the remaining matches, with their derby at home to Espanyol and Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao next on the agenda.

Los Blancos last won the title in 2016-17, during Zidane's previous spell in charge, and the head coach is taking nothing for granted.

"The players know that it is a complicated, difficult, long competition, and that those who did it before show that they want to go for everything," he said.

"There is no euphoria here because we have not won anything.

"There is work and commitment to do it well and try to win matches."

Sergio Ramos was Madrid's match-winner against Getafe last time out and he is set to be joined at centre-back by Eder Militao at San Mames.

Raphael Varane was struck in the face by the ball during Thursday's match and was substituted, with the France international suffering from neck pain and unable to recover in time for a place in this weekend's squad.

"He has just arrived, he is working to reach the level of Rafa and Sergio," Zidane said of the 22-year-old former Porto defender Militao.

"Tomorrow he will have to play and I am happy for Mili because he is a player for the present and the future."

Seven of Militao's 12 LaLiga appearances so far this season have been starts, while his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo has only made Zidane's first XI once since the restart and last scored in October.

Nevertheless, the teenage forward produced a lively cameo last time out, asking questions of Getafe before Ramos' 79th-minute penalty.

"He is a player who is changing little by little, working hard," Zidane added.

"He is a charming boy, he is well, and in the end we will take advantage of his qualities."

Eden Hazard will sit out Real Madrid's LaLiga match with Athletic Bilbao as he is not fully fit, head coach Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday. 

The Belgium international sustained a heavy knock in the 1-0 win over Espanyol and missed the victory against Getafe on Thursday. 

Madrid could stretch their lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga to seven points if they win at Athletic on Sunday before the Catalans face Villarreal, but Zidane is not prepared to take any unnecessary risks with Hazard that could jeopardise his chances of finishing the season. 

"Eden's having a hard time these days and we don't want to risk anything, and he's the first [to agree]," Zidane said. "Hopefully, it's a small thing and we can see him again before the end of the league [season]. 

"He's been away for three or four days and I hope he'll get over it quickly. It's day to day; we don't know anything more than it's a strong blow. There are those who know, the doctors and the medics... they are very competent people. It was a blow against Espanyol and it's a matter of days." 

Hazard's first season at Madrid since a €100million move from Chelsea has been blighted by injuries, with the 29-year-old having only started 13 league games in 2019-20. 

"The Hazard thing is the sort of thing we don't want to happen, that's the worst thing for me," Zidane said. "It's not just me, there's a lot of people here to help the player. 

"For Eden, it's his first year and he wants to help the team. And when he can't do that, he's not happy. 

"I don't think he's afraid [of injuries]; what he wants is to be good enough to play. If he doesn't look 100 per cent, it's a problem for him and for everyone, because we love him to the max. 

"What I hope is that we'll soon get out of it." 

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane wants Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi to remain in LaLiga amid speculation of a possible departure.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday, claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is considering an exit.

According to Cadena SER, Messi has halted contract negotiations due to his frustrations with Barca – who are on track to be dethroned by bitter rivals Madrid this season.

Zidane was asked about the rumours regarding Messi after Madrid moved four points clear of two-time defending champions Barca thanks to Thursday's 1-0 win over Getafe.

"I don't know what will happen but we hope not because he is in this league and we want the best in this league," Zidane said post-match.

Sergio Ramos was the hero for Madrid against Getafe, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

The victory was Madrid's sixth in a row as Los Blancos extended their advantage over stuttering Barca with five matches remaining in LaLiga.

Zidane hailed captain Ramos, who took his LaLiga tally to nine goals in 2019-20 following his 450th league appearance for Madrid.

"Our captain is our leader on the field, but also outside," Zidane said of the Spain skipper, who took his career total to 100 goals.

"He is an unrepeatable player. He is unique and we know what he transmits to everyone else. I'm happy for him for his goal because when it comes to shooting a penalty, he has a lot of confidence. 

"It's almost in the 80th minute and Dani Carvajal's effort in goal is from the whole team. We know that with patience and tranquillity we can score goals. This is what happened.

"The last 20 minutes with freshness we claimed a very important result. We have to congratulate all the players because what we are doing is not easy."

Zidane also provided an update on star centre-back Raphael Varane, who took a blow to the head and had to be replaced in the first half.

"Right now he's not right because it's a blow to the neck," Zidane added. "He has gone home and the doctor is going to see him and we will see from tomorrow [Friday]. 

"We are not going to risk anything. It was a strong blow and tomorrow we will see exactly what he has."

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