Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid exit a ‘surprise for everyone’ – Carlo Ancelotti

By Sports Desk June 04, 2023

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti claimed Karim Benzema’s choice to leave the club after 14 years was a surprise “last-minute” decision made on the final day of the LaLiga season.

Benzema’s departure was announced by the Spanish outfit hours before the striker netted for the final time in Real’s last game of the season on Sunday night, a penalty equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

It took Real’s most decorated player to 354 goals in 648 appearances and he leaves as the club’s second all-time top scorer after Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ancelotti told a press conference: “His departure was a surprise for everyone, but you have to understand it. It was a last-minute decision. Yesterday he trained normally and today he made this decision.

“We understand it. I spoke to him this morning and he said that he was leaving and I understood it. He has done very well with me in these four years and also at the club. For that all my thanks.

“He has thought it through and his decision is part of the transition of this club, which continues and will continue next year. We have time to think about what we have to do. We will have a competitive squad next year.

“I am sending him off knowing that I have coached one of the best players in the world and one of the best forwards. He is a very kind, humble and serious person.

“We cannot be happy about his farewell, but we have to respect his decision. He has won the right to choose and we all thank him for what he has been able to do at this club. It has been legendary, something unforgettable, and it will remain forever in the memory of this club.”

Oihan Sancet broke the deadlock for the visitors four minutes after the break following a first half which had seen Real keeper Thibaut Courtois keep out Mikel Vesga’s penalty.

The hosts won a spot-kick of their own after Eder Militao was fouled in the box, which Benzema coolly converted after 72 minutes for his final goal with the club.

Two minutes later the 35-year-old was replaced by Luka Modric and was treated to a standing ovation as he left the pitch.

Benzema, the Ballon d’Or holder and current UEFA player of the year joined Real from Lyon in July 2009 for a reported fee of 35 million euros and has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad.

The former France international won 25 trophies during his time in Madrid.

He is fifth on Real’s all-time appearance list and his trophy haul in Spain includes five Champions Leagues, five Club World Cups, four European Super Cups, four LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey victories and four Spanish Super Cups.

Courtois paid tribute to his team-mate, telling the club website: “It’s been a pleasure playing with Benzema. He’s an excellent player and a true legend. It’s a shame he’s leaving, but we understand. He has the right to decide his future. I hope it goes well for him and his family.

“Today and yesterday have been days of goodbyes and it’s sad because important players are leaving. We have to thank them greatly, especially Karim, for his career and the trophies he has won with the club. One of the greatest players in Madrid’s history leaves with the Ballon d’Or.”

Earlier in the day Real Madrid released a statement saying the club and Benzema had “agreed to end his brilliant and unforgettable” stay at the Bernabeu.

It added: “Real Madrid would like to show its gratitude and affection to a player who is already one of our greatest legends.

“Karim Benzema’s career at Real Madrid has been a shining example of conduct and professionalism, and he has represented the values of our club.

“Karim Benzema has earned the right to decide his future.

“Madridistas and all the fans around the world have enjoyed his magical and unique football, which has made him one of the great icons of our club and one of the great legends of world football.

“Real Madrid is and will always be his home, and we wish him and all his family the best in this new stage of his life.”

Real have confirmed they will hold “an institutional act of tribute and farewell” to Benzema in the Spanish capital on Tuesday in the presence of club president Florentino Perez.

Related items

  • Minnesota United v San Jose Earthquakes: Under-pressure Ramsay chooses to see hope Minnesota United v San Jose Earthquakes: Under-pressure Ramsay chooses to see hope

    Minnesota United head coach Eric Ramsay says the club are "onto a good thing" despite their nine-match winless streak as they prepare to face the San Jose Earthquakes.

    Minnesota ended a six-match losing run against Houston Dynamo last weekend with a 1-1 draw but could not build on that in midweek as they let a lead slip in stoppage time against D.C. United to lose 3-2.

    Sitting ninth in the Western Conference with teams below them are starting to close in, but Ramsay, who is starting to come under pressure due to this run of results, remains optimistic.

    "I always see hope," Ramsay said. "We've got a group that is very willing to throw themselves into a challenge and a coaching staff that are largely very positive and constructive.

    "We're doing everything we can to make sure that we roll from one game into another. We look at ourselves hard in the mirror, but we're also realistic, and I am absolutely adamant that we're onto a good thing here.

    "The big thing is we remain calm and level, with lessons learned, and everything still intact."

    Meanwhile, San Jose sit rooted to the bottom of the table having collected just 14 points this season.

    Despite winning just one of their last 12 matches, interim head coach Ian Russell says he sees improvement in the team, especially defensively.

    "We've had three games in a week, and you want to focus on each game, but that's really hard," Russell said.

    "Defensively, we're better, but we've got to get the attack going. It's a fine line. It's a matter of every player buying in defensively, staying compact, small details.

    "If you do that as a collective, you start seeing results and, defensively, we've been pretty good."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Minnesota United – Tanitoluwa Oluwaseyi

    Minnesota's 3-2 defeat to D.C. on Wednesday marked the second time in club history that the Loons lost an MLS match when leading entering the 90th minute, also doing so at home against Seattle in August 2018.

    Oluwaseyi scored the opener in that game, netting for the eighth time this season, and he will be key as they look to bounce back.

    San Jose Earthquakes – Jacob Jackson

    San Jose have lost four straight, and nine of their 11 road games this regular season (winning one, drawing one). The Earthquakes have allowed at least four goals in five of those 11 games.

    Jacob Jackson has endured a torrid run in goal, and he will be keen to enjoy a shutout before the Leagues Cup break.

    MATCH PREDICTION: MINNESOTA UNITED WIN

    San Jose won each of their first four meetings with Minnesota, spanning the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Since 2019, the Earthquakes have managed just one win in 10 meetings with the Loons in all competitions (drawing four, losing five).

    Minnesota are winless in a club-record nine straight regular-season matches (drawing two, losing seven) following a 3-2 loss to D.C. on Wednesday. The Loons have lost three straight home matches for the first time in the club's MLS history.

    Meanwhile, San Jose's 14 points through 24 games this season equals the fourth-fewest at this stage of a season in MLS history, behind only the MetroStars in 1999 (nine), D.C. United in 2013 (13) and Chivas USA in 2005 (13).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Minnesota United – 56.1%

    Draw – 22.7%

    San Jose Earthquakes – 21.2%

  • Sporting Kansas City v St. Louis City: Visitors want to show fight during 'test of character' Sporting Kansas City v St. Louis City: Visitors want to show fight during 'test of character'

    St. Louis City interim head coach John Hackworth says their recent struggles have been a "test of character" as they look to bounce back against Sporting Kansas City.

    St. Louis have lost their last three games by an aggregate score of 10-2, leaving them 13th in the Western Conference, eight points off a playoffs place.

    With only one win in their last 13 MLS matches, Hackworth is keen to snap their current losing streak and says he saw positives in their 2-0 defeat to Seattle Sounders in midweek.

    "The players made a huge step [against Seattle], played much better than we did previously," Hackworth said.

    "[We] gave ourselves a chance to be in that game, had some unfortunate things again happen to us, but it wasn't for lack of trying to play with a lot of heart and soul, being collective, having each other's backs, so those are positives we can build on for sure.

    "We have had all season to deal with a lot of hardships, it's a test of our character."

    Meanwhile, Kansas City sit one place and one point ahead of their opponents but lost their most recent match 2-1 against Vancouver Whitecaps after back-to-back wins.

    Head coach Peter Vermes expressed his disappointment with the defeat in Vancouver and is eyeing a quick improvement on Saturday.

    "We're slow with the ball in situations that catch us out with fast transitions, and we need to be better there," Vermes said.

    "We need as much energy and as many players as we possibly can for this weekend, so hopefully, we'll be there."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Sporting Kansas City – William Agada

    William Agada scored on Wednesday, bringing his total up to four goals in his last four matches in all competitions.

    Prior to his recent form, Agada had notched just two goals in his previous 17 matches.

    St. Louis City – Nokkvi Thorisson

    Nokkvi Thorisson attempted two shots in the loss to the Sounders on Wednesday, tying him with Eduard Lowen for the most by any St. Louis player in the match.

    It was the fifth consecutive match in which Thorisson had either the most or joint-most shots for the team.

    MATCH PREDICTION: SPORTING KANSAS CITY WIN

    Sporting are unbeaten in three straight meetings with St. Louis (winning two, drawing one), including winning both matches in the 2023 playoffs after St. Louis won two of the first three meetings between the sides.

    Kansas City are also on a three-match home winning streak in all competitions, the most recent of which was a 2-1 extra-time victory over FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup. This is the 'longest home winning streak since winning four straight in May-June 2023.

    Meanwhile, St. Louis lost 2-0 at Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, their third straight defeat, all by at least two goals. City are looking to avoid becoming the first team to lose four straight MLS matches, all by multiple goals, since Inter Miami did so in March 2022.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Sporting Kansas City – 50.1%

    Draw – 25.2%

    St. Louis City – 24.7%

  • Howe wants Newcastle stay as long as he is 'happy' amid England links Howe wants Newcastle stay as long as he is 'happy' amid England links

    Eddie Howe says he wants to stay at Newcastle United as long as he is "happy" in his position amid links to the vacant England job.

    Gareth Southgate stepped down as the Three Lions manager on Tuesday following their Euro 2024 final defeat to Spain.

    Howe is reportedly one of the favourites to replace Southgate, though Newcastle CEO Darren Eales was confident they could keep the manager on Tyneside. 

    However, the club is undergoing changes in the off-season; co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi have left, while Paul Mitchell and James Bunce have been appointed as sporting director and performance director respectively.

    During an interview at Newcastle's pre-season training camp in Germany, Howe hinted that those shifts in the club could affect his position.

    "Being very, very proud to be Newcastle manager, this is all about Newcastle," Howe said. "It's not about England. So, as long as I am happy, feel supported, feel free to work in the way that I want to work, I have not thought of anything else other than Newcastle.

    "I absolutely love the club. I love the supporters. I love where I am at in my career. There is no better place for me to be. That is how I feel.

    "There has been a lot of change at the football club this summer. It has been a very difficult summer for everyone connected with the club. With change comes always a new feeling.

    "You can point to PSR, Amanda and Mehrdad, a change in sporting director which, of course, influences me. These are all big changes. That is why I've made the points that I have because this has to work for Newcastle.

    "It's not about me as the manager. I'm slightly irrelevant. It's about making sure Newcastle is as strong as it can be for the next season and beyond. We've all got to come together and make sure we are the force that we want to be.

    "We're in the flux of change, it's just happened. I can't say with a definitive answer where that will lead."

    While Howe did not definitively rule out leaving Newcastle to become England's manager should the FA approach him, he admitted he did not feel a big draw to the position.

    "I think England is a very special job for someone," he added. "I am very patriotic, and I'm not ashamed to say that.

    "I love my country. I want my country to do well. I was gutted for Gareth and the lads that they did not win the Euros.

    "But I don't have that job like a burning sensation in me that I have to do it at some stage. If it happens at some stage in the future, then it's to be for me.

    "If not, then I'm very, very happy in the current role that I'm doing. The day-to-day management.

    "I had this situation a lot at Bournemouth in my second spell, but I was very, very happy, in my environment, in my day-to-day workings. So, I had no desire to leave. For me, that's always been my key driver: my happiness and my ability to do my job."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.