Kylian Mbappe suggests Karim Benzema would have to "stop thinking about the Ballon d'Or forever" if he did not win the top individual award this year.

Benzema is the favourite among the 30 Ballon d'Or nominees announced by France Football on Friday.

The announcement marked the end of an era, with last year's winner Lionel Messi absent from the shortlist for the first time since 2005.

Mbappe is at the forefront of the next generation of contenders, and he told France Football he would put himself on the 2022 podium alongside Benzema and Sadio Mane.

But the forward's France team-mate Benzema is clearly a deserving winner, having inspired Real Madrid to LaLiga and Champions League glory.

Indeed, Mbappe feels Benzema will never take home the Ballon d'Or if this is not his year.

"Of course. He is 34 years old, has just made the season of his life, wins another Champions League by often being decisive," the Paris Saint-Germain striker told France Football.

"Instead of Karim, if I don't win there [in that position], I stop thinking about the Ballon d'Or forever."

It has been a fine week for Benzema, who surpassed Raul as Madrid's outright second-highest goalscorer in a midweek Super Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt, while he was shortlisted for the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award ahead of his Ballon d'Or nomination.

But prior to the match in Helsinki, Benzema said: "I'm not like that in terms of whether I'm the best or not. I always give my all for this club, the best club in the world.

"I have to give more and more every year. It's true I had a very good season, but other people can comment on if I'm the best in the world. I'm focused on helping my team in matches, that's all I can say.

"I'm not thinking about [the Ballon d'Or]; there's trophies to win every year, that's very important. I always stress the importance of success for the team that leads to individual success."

After Madrid's victory, Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti said there was "no doubt" that Benzema was the world's best player.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi has not been named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2022 award.

Messi – who won last year's award – endured a frustrating first season at Paris Saint-Germain in 2021-22 after arriving on a free transfer from Barcelona, scoring just 11 goals in 34 games in all competitions.

Three goals in two games at the start of the new season were not enough to see Messi make the cut, but great rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United was included.

Six players from Ronaldo's former club Real Madrid have been named among the 30, including heavy favourite for the award Karim Benzema, while there are also six inclusions each from Premier League duo Manchester City and Liverpool.

The nominees for the prestigious award were announced on Friday, with notable names including Bayern Munich's Sadio Mane and City's Kevin De Bruyne, the latter of whom is also among the three nominees for the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award along with Benzema and Thibaut Courtois.

Benzema is fancied to take home the prize after a season in which he scored 27 goals in 32 LaLiga games as Madrid won the title, and he also scored 15 in 12 Champions League outings as Los Blancos lifted their 14th European crown in Paris in May.

The Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper will be contested among 10 nominees, including Courtois and Eintracht Frankfurt's Europa League winner Kevin Trapp.

The 10 nominees for the Kopa Trophy for the best player under the age of 21 includes six players from the Bundesliga, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Bayern's Jamal Musiala among them.

Alexia Putellas, last year's winner of the Ballon d'Or Feminin, has been announced as one of 20 nominees despite missing the Women's Euro 2022 with an injury.

Five of Lyon's Champions League-winning side are included, as are three members of the England team who won the Euros on home turf last month.

The winners of each award will be announced on October 17, a month before the men's World Cup, meaning the tournament in Qatar at the end of the year will count towards consideration for the 2023 awards.

Full nominee lists

Ballon d'Or: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Rafael Leao (Milan), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Luis Diaz (Liverpool), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Fabinho (Liverpool), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Mike Maignan (Milan), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Sebastien Haller (Borussia Dortmund), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Ballon d'Or Feminin: Selma Bacha (Lyon), Fridolina Rolfo (Barcelona), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Christiane Endler (Lyon), Lena Oberdorf (Wolfsburg), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris Saint-Germain), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Alexia Putellas (Barcelona), Alexandra Popp (Wolfsburg), Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona), Wendie Renard (Lyon), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris Saint-Germain), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Ada Hegerberg (Lyon)

Yashin Trophy: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Alisson (Liverpool), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Ederson (Manchester City), Mike Maignan (Milan), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Kopa Trophy: Karim Adeyemi (Borussia Dortmund), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Gavi (Barcelona), Ryan Gravenberch (Bayern Munich), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Real Madrid duo Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois, alongside Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, are the three nominees for the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award.

The three are joined by bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, plus Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, on the three-man shortlist for the UEFA Men's Coach of the Year Award.

Ahead of this week's Ballon d'Or nominations, France forward Benzema has further enshrined his frontrunner status, after firing Madrid to a continental double last term in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.

But there is no room for any player from Liverpool, the side who Ancelotti's men vanquished in last season's final in Paris.

Five Reds stars - Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho, plus the departed Sadio Mane - made the 15-man longlist, but none made the final cut for the eventual nominations.

Other players included Robert Lewandowski and Luka Modric, who came fourth and fifth respectively, while Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe came eighth, one spot ahead of Madrid forward Vinicius Junior.

Benzema is feted for his superb efforts in helping Madrid bounce back to glory under Ancelotti, with 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions, while Courtois is recognised for his superb feats between the posts.

De Bruyne meanwhile helped City and Guardiola to another Premier League crown, while Klopp steered Liverpool to two domestic trophies, plus a second-place league finish and the Champions League final.

The winners will be announced at the ceremony for the 2022-23 Champions League group stage draw in Istanbul on August 25.

Carlo Ancelotti's return to Real Madrid last year came as something of a surprise to most.

While the job he'd done at Everton was generally seen as fine, there was nothing about his time at Goodison Park that suggested the Italian would be back at the top of the game in his next job.

His appointment at the Santiago Bernabeu could've almost been interpreted as a pointed dig at Clasico rivals Barcelona, where managerial hirings tend to be based around 'philosophy' – few could say that about Ancelotti, a coach arguably regarded more for his motivational skills, tactical flexibility and winning than for sticking to one defined brand of football.

Regardless of how surprising Ancelotti's return was, he certainly got the job done. Madrid looked certainties for the title virtually all season and pulled off great escape after great escape to eventually win the Champions League, traversing one of the toughest routes to European Cup glory ever seen.

But let's not forget, Ancelotti's won the Champions League with Madrid before. Last time, in 2014, he lasted only another year and a day before he was discarded.

From Milan dynasty to short-term guarantee

Perhaps it shouldn't be a shock, given many of the clubs he's coached have been among the biggest – and that usually means impatient by extension – teams in Europe, but Ancelotti hasn't been in charge of a single club for more than two consecutive full seasons since leaving Milan in May 2009.

Granted, his spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Everton ended essentially because Madrid came calling, so who's to say how long he'd have been in charge. But clearly there has been a pattern in his working life since Milan.

Ancelotti will be acutely aware of the expectations upon him at Madrid as he's lived through them before and paid the price for failing to achieve his targets.

But you have to wonder if anything will be different this time around.

 

Ancelotti's dismissal in 2015 came down to the fact Madrid didn't win a (major) trophy in the 2014-15 season. Florentino Perez's decision at the time wasn't universally popular, though no one would've been surprised.

In the culture created by Perez at the club, a lack of success simply equates to failure, and clearly even the good will attained by winning La Decima – Madrid's 10th European crown – only lasts you so long.

Perez's statement to the media even seemed to admit there being a degree of not knowing what else to do, as he said: "It was a very difficult decision to make; the demands at this club are the utmost because Madrid always wants to win silverware.

"The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him. What did Ancelotti do wrong? I don't know. The demands here at Real Madrid are very high."

Essentially, since his Milan days, Ancelotti has been brought in by teams to achieve success quickly and, for the most part, he's done that almost everywhere he's been – but long-term success in one place has eluded him.

Presumably then, Ancelotti will have to again win at least one of LaLiga or the Champions League to stick around for a third season. That stands to reason at Real Madrid, and there's no reason they would be considered incapable on either front, but expecting everything to fall into place like last season is asking for trouble.

Tempting fate?

Who's to say Madrid won't cruise to the title again with Karim Benzema conquering every team in his path? It's entirely possible.

The key differences this time around are the fact Madrid are heading into the season without a defined back-up striker for Benzema, and Barcelona have strengthened significantly.

Firstly on Barca, if we assume they are able to register all of their new signings in time for the season's start, they'll have bolstered a team that finished the 2021-22 season very well. In fact, since the start of 2022, their 45 points was more than any other LaLiga team.

Granted, Madrid played one game less (19), but if they had contested a 20th match and won it, they'd still have been two points shy of Barca.

The change inspired by Xavi cannot be overstated and, as much of a mess as the club is off the pitch, there's every reason to expect them to be a force on it this season.

 

For Madrid and Ancelotti, again their hopes will be pinned on Benzema. Of course, on the face of it that's not an issue. He's scored at least 21 league goals in each of the past four seasons and never made fewer than 27 top-flight appearances for Los Blancos.

As a difference-maker and consistent presence, he's their Mr Reliable. But what if he does pick up a major injury: who will Madrid rely on to fill the Benzema void?

Vinicius Junior enjoyed a remarkable season but wouldn't be suited to the Benzema role, stylistically or as a leader. Again, when Eden Hazard is fit, he is not a central striker, while Mariano Diaz has started just 11 league games in four seasons.

Madrid's decision to get rid of Luka Jovic was probably the right one given how underwhelming the Serbian had been, and there's no guarantee anyone else brought in as a backup would've been more effective.

 

But it does seem an unnecessary risk for a club like Madrid to go into a season without a second striker – or without a second striker who's got a better track record than Diaz. That's the decision Florentino Perez has reportedly made.

Even if they were granted special dispensation to sign another LaLiga-based striker out of the transfer window, mid-season integration for that player would be tough in every way.

Yes, yes, yes, it's all hypothetical and no one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but surely it's better to plan for that possibility than to leave it to chance? Perhaps Ancelotti has a master backup plan hidden up his sleeve in the event of losing Benzema for a while – we'll only find out if it happens.

But if it does and his answer is to rely on Diaz, there's little hope of Ancelotti reaching that elusive third season.

Carlo Ancelotti had little hesitancy in hailing Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema as the best player in world football.

Benzema scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-0 Super Cup triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

In the process, he became the club's outright second-highest goalscorer, having netted for the 324th time for Madrid.

That nudged the 34-year-old – who has replaced the departed Marcelo as Madrid's club captain – ahead of Los Blancos great Raul, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (450) ahead of him in the record books.

Since the start of last season, Benzema has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Madrid. That is a tally bettered only by new Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski (50), when it comes to players from Europe's top five leagues.

With this year's Ballon d'Or awards taking place prior to the World Cup, Benzema seems a certainty to be in the running for the prize.

In a pre-match media briefing on Tuesday, Benzema explained that it was not for him to say if he is the world's best, but instead he would leave it up to others to decide. 

Asked in his post-match news conference if Benzema – who had four shots and created three chances in Madrid's win on Wednesday - could be considered the best player on the planet, Ancelotti was effusive in his reply.

 

"I think [he is the best], yes," Ancelotti said. "He is our most important player right now, the most efficient player in the world at this moment.

"Karim was the most important in the Champions League, even though he did not score in the final, because of his [all-round] game and his goals got us to the final, against Manchester City and Chelsea, against Paris Saint-Germain.

"He's very important for us. There is no doubt, at the moment, that he is the best player in the world."

As well as hailing a standout individual in Benzema, Ancelotti - the first coach to win the Super Cup on four separate occasions - said this Madrid dressing room is the best he has worked with in his illustrious career.

"Yes, absolutely, no doubt about that," the Italian explained. "It is a pleasure to coach this group, it's a healthy atmosphere, good vibes between everyone, winning games and having success helps, but it all about the players."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez ruled out further additions following Los Blancos' Super Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt, as he backed the team's ability to cover for talismanic striker Karim Benzema. 

Goals from David Alaba and Benzema – who moved above Raul in Madrid's all-time goalscoring charts – sealed a deserved win for the Champions League holders on Wednesday.

The triumph represented the ideal start to Madrid's 2022-23 campaign and meant the Spanish giants have now won 17 of their last 19 one-legged finals. 

Since winning the Champions League and LaLiga last season, Madrid have added highly rated midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and powerful defender Antonio Rudiger, both of whom appeared from the bench in Helsinki.

And Perez is satisfied with Madrid's business as he ruled out signing a back-up striker to cover for Benzema.

"We have to continue training well, Ancelotti managed the squad, today we don't contemplate anything else," he told Movistar after the match.

"Look at all the strikers we have. If he [Benzema] does [get injured] we have so many strikers that it won't be noticed."

Asked whether he believed the France striker was on course to win the Ballon d'Or, Perez added: "In my opinion he already deserved it last year and this year more."

 

Madrid's victory also saw Carlo Ancelotti surpass Pep Guardiola as the coach with the most Super Cup titles (four) and Perez showered praise upon the European specialist after he brought yet another trophy to the Santiago Bernabeu.

"We've had a good season and this Super Cup makes us very excited," Perez said. "First you have to reach the finals and then win them. We have a great team, it's hard work well done.

"Ancelotti manages this squad very well, it is an important part of the success and we start this new season, which begins on Sunday, with great enthusiasm. 

"This year it is true that everything has gone well for us and nobody can be dissatisfied but you have to keep working, every day you work for your future."

Real Madrid have not, yet, rounded off their pre-season. Carlo Ancelotti's team do not start their LaLiga campaign until Sunday, when they take on Almeria.

Yet at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, the Champions League holders picked up where they left off just over two months ago – with European glory.

A 14th European crown came their way in Paris back in May, when Vinicius Junior's goal – combined with Thibaut Courtois' heroics – saw off Liverpool.

And on a comfortable summer's night in Finland on Wednesday, Madrid's assortment of superstars claimed the club's fifth Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, as Ancelotti's decision to stick with the team that won at the Stade de France was repaid in full. 

Eintracht, who defeated Rangers to win the Europa League last term, performed admirably, but shorn of Juventus-bound talisman Filip Kostic, the Bundesliga side could not cope with the power and quality at Madrid's disposal.

Not that it would have definitely been any different with Kostic in the team, as this was a game won mostly in midfield, that is where Madrid exerted their dominance. Though on the occasions when Eintracht did threaten, particularly in the opening 30 minutes when Courtois made two impressive stops, it would be easy to imagine Kostic, who crafted 420 chances, provided 56 assists and scored 30 goals across 167 appearances for the club after joining from Hamburg in 2018, would have helped their cause.

In a pre-match news conference on Tuesday, Luka Modric – 37 next month – was asked if he planned on asking Ancelotti to manage his minutes with the mid-season World Cup in mind. 

"I speak to the coach every day, but not about that. The coach knows I like playing and I feel better when I play," Modric replied. "I'm feeling good, available to the team to give my all to help the team in every way. The World Cup doesn't change anything for me."

Karim Benzema, who scored Los Blancos' second to become Madrid's outright second leading goalscorer after Cristiano Ronaldo, added: "Age does not come into it."

Benzema's statement rang true. Madrid's starting midfield three of Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro had a combined age of 98, yet surely covered every blade of grass between them, both on and off the ball.

Having spent much of the opening stages looking to drop into space and ping searching diagonals out to Vinicius Junior, who along with Federico Valverde and Eder Militao adds the effervescence of youth to the starting XI, Modric grew into the game as it wore on, finding the pockets of space only he can.

 

The Croatian's mercurial talents were on full show early in the second half, after David Alaba had put Madrid ahead – his tap-in having been teed up by a combination of Benzema and Casemiro. 

In the space of five minutes, Modric linked up exquisitely with Benzema to find Ferland Mendy and create a chance for Vinicius Junior to test Kevin Trapp, who was well beaten from the next opportunity Modric teed up – Casemiro rattling the crossbar from the edge of the box.

Modric's race was run after Benzema made it 2-0 with his 324th Madrid goal (only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more), and the playmaker headed for the bench having completed 53 of 57 passes (93 per cent), with two of those leading directly to opportunities, though those statistics do not tell the whole story. He was simply spellbinding at times, deft flicks and quick feet toying with Frankfurt's hopes and dreams.

And what of Casemiro? His tally of nine tackles led the game, with a sliding challenge on Jesper Lindstrom in the 51st minute a highlight.

Kroos, as Kroos does, went about his business efficiently, without breaking stride. He strolled off with five minutes remaining, making way for big-money signing Aurelien Tchouameni having had 120 touches, completed 97 passes and gained possession nine times, second only to UEFA's man of the match Casemiro (10).

 

Ancelotti, who has now won the Super Cup a record four times after previous success with Madrid (2014) and Milan (2003, 2007), was able to change things up late on, with Antonio Rudiger joining Tchouameni for a competitive debut, but 34-year-old Benzema who lasted the duration.

Benzema's goal came from a familiar source. Vinicius found space down the left channel, drilled in a cross and his partner in crime was there to finish it off. The Brazil forward has now assisted Madrid's number nine 16 times. 

It was he, as Madrid's new club captain following Marcelo's departure, who lifted the trophy. If this evidence, with a team still rounding off their preparations, is anything to go by, it will not be the last piece of silverware he lifts this season.

Karim Benzema moved to second in Real Madrid's all-time goalscoring charts as Los Blancos followed up May's Champions League win by beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the Super Cup.

David Alaba prodded home when Eintracht failed to deal with a first-half corner to give Carlo Ancelotti's men the lead in Helsinki, before Benzema fired past Kevin Trapp 20 minutes after the break to seal the win.

Benzema's effort took him to 324 goals in all competitions for Madrid, putting him one ahead of legendary Spain forward Raul and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

Having made a bright start, Europa League victors Eintracht were ultimately second best as Madrid cruised to victory, offering a reminder of their nous on the European stage at the outset of the new season.

Eintracht missed the first clear chance when Daichi Kamada forced Thibaut Courtois into a superb one-on-one save after 14 minutes, before Tuta denied Vinicius Junior with an incredible goal-line block two minutes later.

Vinicius again went close when Trapp tipped his low effort around the post 36 minutes in, but Madrid broke the deadlock from the resulting corner as Casemiro nodded down for Alaba to convert into a gaping net.

Benzema flashed a fierce volley wide of the bottom-left corner as Madrid ended the first half on top, before Trapp made a reflex save from Vinicius' left-footed strike 10 minutes after the break.

With Madrid establishing greater control, Casemiro rattled the crossbar with a sweet left-footed strike from range before Courtois made a routine save when Ansgar Knauff led a rare Eintracht foray. 

But Benzema, the outstanding candidate for the Ballon d'Or, was determined to have the final say, drilling Vinicius' cut-back under Trapp to ensure LaLiga champions Madrid would take another piece of silverware back to the Spanish capital.

What does it mean? Another title for continental kings Madrid

Madrid won the Super Cup for the fifth time on Wednesday, as they atoned for a memorable defeat in their last appearance in the competition (4-2 v Atletico Madrid in 2018).

The results means the Champions League holders have won nine of the last 10 editions while the Spanish giants have won 17 of their last 19 one-legged finals.

Karim the dream

Benzema's unbelievable return of 15 Champions League goals helped Madrid to their 14th European crown last season, and the France star picked up where he left off to steal the headlines in Finland.

Only Ronaldo has now outscored Benzema in the famous white shirt, while his bid to be named the world's best player has gone from strength to strength. 

Don Carlo reigns again 

Ancelotti became the first coach to win four European Cup/Champions League titles with May's hard-fought final win over Liverpool, and his latest success saw him become the Super Cup's most decorated boss.

His fourth triumph in the competition (having also won with Milan in 2003 and 2007 and Madrid in 2014) saw him move one clear of Pep Guardiola. 

What's next?

Madrid begin the defence of their LaLiga title at Almeria on Sunday, while Frankfurt go to Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga on Saturday. 

Karim Benzema became Real Madrid's outright second-highest goalscorer as he overtook Raul by netting in the Super Cup.

Benzema tied level in second place on the club's list of scorers back in May, when he equalled Los Blancos great Raul on 323 goals with a header in a 6-0 rout of Levante.

He is now alone in second, on 324, after netting Madrid's second against Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday in Helsinki.

With David Alaba having put Madrid ahead in the first half, Benzema made it 2-0 in the 65th minute as he struck up with Vinicius Junior for a familiar combination.

Vinicius assisted Benzema 10 times last season, and the Brazil winger's cross from the left side of the area presented Madrid's new club captain with the chance to side-foot home a first-time finish that crept through Kevin Trapp.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a remarkable 450 goals during his nine-year spell at Santiago Bernabeu between 2009 and 2018, stands ahead of Benzema, though it would seem unlikely the 34-year-old France striker will go on to match that record.

 

Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric does not think it will be crucial for Carlo Ancelotti to manage his minutes this season, despite the upcoming World Cup.

The 2022 edition of FIFA's showpiece tournament takes place in Qatar across November and December, with Modric's Croatia having qualified.

Croatia reached the final of the 2018 tournament in Russia, with Modric starring. He subsequently won the Ballon d'Or, and is the only player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to scoop that award since 2007, when Kaka took it.

While Ivan Rakitic, the other mainstay of Croatia's midfield over the past decade, and Mario Mandzukic - who led the line in 2018 - have retired from international football (and in the latter's case, from playing altogether), Modric is set to lead his country once again.

Modric will be 37 by the time the World Cup rolls around, with Croatia drawn against Belgium, Canada and Morocco in Group F, but ahead of Wednesday's Super Cup clash with Eintracht Frankfurt, explained that he has not felt the need to talk to Ancelotti about managing how much he plays this campaign.

He told a news conference in Helsinki: "Not at all, I don't see it being different, as I've always said, age doesn't matter. What matters is what you show on the pitch, you don't need to look at your age.

"I speak to the coach every day, but not about that. The coach knows I like playing and I feel better when I play.

"I'm feeling good, available to the team to give my all to help the team in every way. The World Cup doesn't change anything for me, I just have to be ready, train well and be at the coach's disposal."

 

Perhaps to prove a point, Modric, who will have additional competition from new arrival Aurelien Tchouameni this season, was leading the press in a training game between two 11s made up of Madrid's superstar-littered squad at the Olympic Stadium after the media duties had been fulfilled.

Modric, as well as Karim Benzema, was also asked how Madrid could improve on last season, when they won a LaLiga and Champions League double.

"To be at this level you have to work hard and be committed on and off the pitch, that's what we're doing," he added. 

"We have a very good group of players here, we are ready for a good season, we are going to give everything as we do every year."

The equally evergreen Benzema, citing his coach, said: "I think we all agree, if that's what Carlo said!

"Age doesn't come into it, it's true that we're no longer young but we're all working hard, on and off the pitch, resting well between and are able to keep going and performing at a high standard. We have a good squad here, better than last year. We're going to compete for everything."

Cristiano Ronaldo helped Karim Benzema "on and off the pitch" while at Real Madrid, but Los Blancos' current talisman knew he could do more when his former team-mate departed.

Ronaldo is Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer, having netted 450 times in all competitions between 2009 and 2018, when he joined Juventus.

Benzema has since picked up the mantle, however, scoring a remarkable 131 goals in the past four seasons. While Ronaldo's Manchester United future is in doubt, his old strike partner is thriving.

Of players in Europe's top five leagues last term, only Robert Lewandowski (50) – who will go up against Benzema in LaLiga after his switch from Bayern Munich to Barcelona – scored more goals in all competitions than the France forward, who averaged a goal every 88 minutes.

Asked ahead of the Super Cup clash with Eintracht Frankfurt whether Ronaldo's exit had directly benefited his own form, Benzema told a news conference: "It's true I've scored more goals but when Cristiano was here we had a different style, I provided more assists and he helped me on and off the pitch.

"I knew I could do more [at the time] and when he left it was the time to change my game and ambitions, I'm doing that at the moment."

 

Benzema's form has seen him emerge as a favourite to win this year's Ballon d'Or, a bid only strengthened by Madrid's success in LaLiga and the Champions League last campaign.

But the striker is simply focused on his team's exploits, adding: "I'm not like that in terms of whether I'm the best or not, I always give my all for this club, the best club in the world.

"I have to give more and more every year, it's true I had a very good season, but other people can comment on if I'm the best in the world. I'm focused on helping my team in matches, that's all I can say.

"I'm not thinking about [the Ballon d'Or], there's trophies to win every year, that's very important. I always stress the importance of success for the team that leads to individual success."

For Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, there is little doubt that he has the best forward in world football at his disposal.

Asked if Madrid, who wanted to sign Kylian Mbappe before Benzema's compatriot signed a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, needed to bring in a back-up striker before the transfer window closes, Ancelotti replied: "We have strikers, plenty of them. Benzema, Mariano [Diaz], [Eden] Hazard, Rodrygo, Vinicius [Junior], have I forgotten any?

"When you're missing the best striker in the world, there are alternatives, but it's impossible to replace Benzema, no player in the world can replace Karim. If anything happens, we will adapt."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed Real Madrid as "the strongest team in Europe" after the Spanish giants beat the Bianconeri 2-0 in a friendly in the United States.

A first-half penalty from Karim Benzema was followed by a second-half Marco Asensio tap-in, which was enough to secure the win for LaLiga and Champions League holders Madrid at the Rose Bowl in California in front of a crowd of 93,702.

It was the final game for both teams on their tours of the USA, and Allegri was left upbeat despite the loss.

Speaking to Juventus' official website, Allegri said: "A good match that concluded a good 10 days' work in the United States. We were up against the strongest team in Europe, and as long as it was possible to play, we did, trying to manage possession and not give the ball away.

"I am satisfied with the effort from the boys. We can still grow a lot, though, and there are players who have still to return. Tonight there were chances for both sides, and we should have managed ours with a little more patience.

"Now we have a couple of days' rest and then back to work because the season is approaching."

Madrid head coach and former Juve boss Carlo Ancelotti was pleased with his own team's work and believes they are ready for the UEFA Super Cup clash with Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt, which takes place on August 10 in Helsinki.

"[The tour] has been very positive because we haven't picked up any injuries, aside from a small sprain for [Dani] Carvajal," Ancelotti told Madrid's official website. 

"The team has worked really well, and we've had no issues. It's been a well-executed pre-season, and now we have the confidence to go and win the European Super Cup".

Real Madrid treated the 93,702 fans at the sold-out Rose Bowl to a strong performance in their 2-0 friendly win against Juventus, thoroughly outplaying the Italian side by every statistical measure.

It was almost the best possible start for the Spanish giants, finding the back of the net just 14 seconds in, but the celebrations were cut short by the offside flag. 

Juventus were the next side to threaten, but Denis Zakaria's hit from the edge of the area found only the woodwork in the 13th minute to keep things tied.

Madrid fans did not have to wait long for the lead, earning a penalty in the 19th minute, and Karim Benzema made no mistake, giving his side a 1-0 advantage.

That score would hold until the 69th minute, when substitutes combined as Jesus Vallejo fired a ball across the six-yard box after some tricky interplay, finding Marco Asensio unmarked for the tap-in.

Madrid did not allow a single shot on target, and controlled 58 per cent of the possession, resulting in an expected goals advantage of 1.7 to 0.47.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti says Eden Hazard is a "great player" who the Spanish champions need after netting in Tuesday's 2-2 friendly draw with Club America.

Hazard has struggled for impact at Madrid since his switch from Chelsea in 2019 amid a string of injuries, making only 66 appearances and scoring six goals across three seasons.

The 31-year-old Belgian midfielder is fit again and vowed earlier this week to show his best with Los Blancos this season.

Hazard was on the scoresheet from the penalty spot against the Mexican side in San Francisco, with Ancelotti hoping to set him up for a big campaign.

"We need these games to try to give Hazard minutes because Hazard is a great player that we need," Ancelotti told reporters.

"So I use these games to give him minutes. He improved his game compared to the first game."

Los Blancos have one more game in their US tour against Juventus in Pasadena on Saturday prior to the new LaLiga campaign commencing on August 14.

Ancelotti continues to learn about his squad during pre-season, in particular new additions Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni.

On Tchouameni, the Italian said: "He's a different six than Casemiro, who stays more in his position. Tchouameni has the ability and quality to play more in attack. He has also improved on the ball."

Karim Benzema was Madrid's other scorer, equalising for 1-1 with an excellent low strike from outside the box in the 22nd minute.

Benzema, who scored 44 goals in all club competitions last term, had not played any competitive games since May, enjoying a longer break with the World Cup later this year in mind.

"Benzema is in good shape, even if he hasn't done a lot of training sessions," Ancelotti said.

"It's clear that he still needs to improve his physical form. But we are on schedule, working a lot.

"After the game against Juventus we will reduce the pressure a bit to be in good shape for the Super Cup."

Karim Benzema appeared to allay fears that he suffered an injury during Real Madrid training on Monday. 

France international Benzema twice required treatment on his ankle following a challenge from Vinicius Tobias ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Club America in San Francisco. 

The 34-year-old, who only returned to training on Wednesday and missed the Clasico defeat to Barcelona in Las Vegas on Saturday, was able to complete the session but it still led to doubts about his fitness. 

Benzema seemed to ease any concerns supporters may have been developing by tweeting: "See you tom[orrow]..." 

Ferland Mendy is reportedly set to miss the game against America while Dani Carvajal did not train with the team as he continues to recover from an ankle problem. 

Madrid wrap up their tour of the United States against Juventus at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. 

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