Benzema an inspiration to Real Madrid team-mate Varane

By Sports Desk September 15, 2019

Raphael Varane sees Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema as an inspiration due to his longevity at the very top.

Benzema, 31, joined Madrid in 2009 and has gone on to carve out a fine career at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of Benzema's Madrid career has been his ability to rediscover his best form after struggling in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, scoring only 16 goals across 61 matches.

Last term he found the net 21 times and he has started the new campaign in solid fashion as well, scoring four goals in as many games, including a brace in Saturday's 3-2 win over Levante.

The Lyon academy product has seemingly established himself as one of the world's elite strikers once again and Varane looks up to him for having such a prolonged career at the top.

Speaking ahead of the release of his Amazon Prime documentary, Varane said: "We [Varane and Benzema] have a good relationship. When I arrived in Madrid, there were two Frenchmen, him and Lassana Diarra.

"We have known each other for eight years now. We've had great moments together. We talk a lot. We talk a lot about football, in good and bad times.

"We have a very good relationship. He has more experience than me, so he can have a role of giving advice on how to approach things at the highest level and how to last that level because he's been at Madrid a while and his longevity is exceptional."

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    Reports in the UK this week suggested there is growing support to void the current Premier League season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Additionally, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the 2019-20 campaign might have to be scrubbed from the records, after Euro 2020 was moved back 12 months.

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    With that in mind, we took a look back at the teams and individuals who might like to expunge an ignominious season or period of time from history.

     

    MANCHESTER UNITED 2013-14

    The seven years since Alex Ferguson's retirement have not exactly gone swimmingly for United, but that ill-fated first season remains the real low point. 

    David Moyes lasted just 10 months as Ferguson's replacement as the reigning Premier League champions finished seventh in 2013-14, suffering truly humiliating defeats to top two Manchester City and Liverpool along the way. A wretched 2-0 loss at Moyes' former club Everton proved the final straw.

    At least they won the Community Shield in August 2013. 

    NOVAK DJOKOVIC 2017

    When Novak Djokovic defeated familiar foe Andy Murray to win the 2016 French Open, the modern-day legend was in possession of all of tennis' grand slams. The question was, who can stop this man? Well, the answer was actually himself.

    A round-three exit at Wimbledon followed a month later and, although he reached the US Open final that year, a barren 2017 followed. Djokovic did not go beyond the quarters at any slam that year and reached just one final at the Italian Open, which he lost. Djokovic rediscovered the winning habit in slams at Wimbledon in 2018, beginning a run of five triumphs in the past seven at tennis' big events.

    DETROIT LIONS – 2008

    The Lions secured an unwanted place in history when they became the first NFL team in the 16-game season era to go 0-16. They went 7-9 in 2007 and were then undefeated in preaseason, meaning few would have thought a historically bad campaign was on the cards.

    Detroit started three QBs over the course of the campaign - Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper - all of whom struggled with form and injuries despite the presence of star receiver Calvin Johnson, but worst of all was their woeful defense, which gave up 517 points.

    Team president and CEO Matt Millen was fired after four weeks, while head coach Rod Marinelli was shown the door at the end of the season and has not led a team since.

    TIGER WOODS - 2014-2017

    Tiger Woods' standing as one the greatest, if not the greatest, golfer of all time is in no doubt. By the end of 2013, Woods was standing again atop the world rankings after winning five times during the year, earning the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year award. 

    It would take five years for Woods to win again as the American great endured a horrendous time with debilitating back injuries and loss of form. At one stage it looked as though he may have to retire and his world ranking had plummeted to a scarcely credible 1,199th in December 2017. But just a year ago Woods was back in major-winning form as, at the age of 43, he became Masters champion for a fifth time.

    BARCELONA 2002-03

    Years of drift since the 1999 LaLiga title came to a head in 2002-03, as Barcelona endured a miserable season that saw Louis van Gaal sacked as coach and led to the departure of president Joan Gaspart. 

    Barca ended up sixth in the league – their worst finish in 15 years – as the Real Madrid Galacticos ruled. They also exited the Copa del Rey in the first round and lost in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

    After that season, in came Joan Laporta as president, Frank Rijkaard as head coach, and a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho. And things got a bit better. 

    ENGLAND – 2013-14 ASHES

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    REAL MADRID 2008-09

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    PAULA RADCLIFFE – 2004 OLYMPICS

    After setting a new world record in London in 2003 and having won the 2004 race in New York, Radcliffe was favourite for marathon gold at the 2004 Olympics. 

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    GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2019-2020

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    MANNY PACQUIAO 2012

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    Timothy Bradley halted Pacquiao's streak when he was – somewhat farcically – awarded a split-decision verdict over the Filipino great. Juan Manuel Marquez knew all about scorecard controversy from his previous three meetings with Pacquiao and duly took them out of the equation, chillingly leaving his rival face down and motionless on the Las Vegas canvas that December. The Mayweather bout had to wait until 2015, but that is one of only two losses suffered since by Pacquiao, who reigns as WBA welterweight champion at 41.

    CHELSEA 2015-16

    Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2014-15 and 2016-17. What came in between was nothing short of a complete shambles. Jose Mourinho had returned for a second spell in charge and collected a third winners' medal in England's top flight but the Portuguese's famously abrasive tendencies then appeared to wear his players down at an alarming rate.

    Beginning with the 2-2 draw against Swansea City that ignited Mourinho's sapping spat with club doctor Eva Carneiro, Chelsea won only one of their opening five Premier League fixtures. That form was far from a blip and they were 16th when Mourinho was sacked in the wake of a 2-1 December loss to would-be champions Leicester City. Caretaker boss Guus Hiddink restored a modicum of respectability with a 10th-place finish before Antonio Conte arrived and the Stamford Bridge faithful were soon wondering if it had all just been a bad dream.

    SERENA WILLIAMS 2006

    Williams started the year by losing her Australian Open crown with a third-round exit to Daniele Hantuchova, before injuries forced her to miss tournaments in Tokyo and Dubai. Come April, she had dropped out of the WTA top 100 for the first time since November 1997, and it came as little surprise that she competed at neither the French Open nor Wimbledon. 

    After a fourth-round exit at the US Open, Williams ended a title-less year 95th in the world. It meant she returned to the Australian Open in January 2007 as an unseeded player. She won it. 

  • Mourinho's ideal XIs: Which is better? Mourinho's ideal XIs: Which is better?

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    Eight league titles across four different countries, domestic cups with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United, one Europa League, two Champions Leagues, the 2009-10 treble... Mourinho has a trophy cabinet that would be the envy of most coaches in the game.

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    John Terry
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    Ricardo Carvalho
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    William Gallas
    Only John Terry (15) has netted more Premier League goals among defenders under Mourinho than Gallas (seven – level with Branislav Ivanovic).

    Claude Makelele
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    Frank Lampard
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    Eden Hazard
    During Mourinho's second tenure in charge at Chelsea, Hazard scored in more Premier League games than any other player for the club (24 – 28 goals).

    Mesut Ozil
    Ozil provided more assists (47) and created more chances (314) than any other player under Mourinho in LaLiga.

    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Ronaldo scored 153 LaLiga goals under Mourinho, 83 more than any other player for Madrid during this period. He also scored 12 Champions League goals in 2012-13: at that stage, only Lionel Messi (14 goals in 2011-12) had scored more goals in a single Champions League campaign.

    Didier Drogba
    Drogba won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2006-07 under Mourinho (20 goals), despite Chelsea finishing second that season behind Manchester United.

    AN ALTERNATIVE BEST MOURINHO XI (according to Stats Perform):

    Iker Casillas
    Only Victor Valdes (42) kept more clean sheets among LaLiga goalkeepers than Casillas (35) while Mourinho was in charge at Real Madrid.

    Cesar Azpilicueta
    Azpilicueta was Chelsea's Players' Player of the Year in Mourinho's first season back at the Blues in 2013-14.

    Sergio Ramos
    In Mourinho's three seasons at Real Madrid, only Guilherme Siqueira scored more LaLiga goals among defenders than Ramos (10).

    Marco Materazzi
    The treble-winning defender's only Champions League goal came in the 2008-09 season under Mourinho, against Anorthosis Famagusta in the group stages.

    Marcelo
    The Brazilian completed more dribbles in LaLiga than any other defender during Mourinho's stint as Real Madrid boss (154).

    Esteban Cambiasso
    Only captain Javier Zanetti (75) and keeper Julio Cesar (74) played more league games for Inter under Mourinho than Cambiasso (65).

    Paul Pogba
    No United player was involved in more Premier League goals than Pogba while Mourinho was in charge at Old Trafford (31 – 14 goals, 17 assists).

    Deco
    Deco was involved in more goals than any other Porto player in their successful 2003-04 Champions League campaign (seven – two goals, five assists), also creating more chances than any other player at the club (38).

    Wesley Sneijder
    Sneijder was involved in more goals than any other Inter player during their successful 2009-10 Champions League campaign (nine – three goals, six assists), also creating more chances than any other player at the club (33). After leading Inter to the treble and Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, he somehow failed to make the Ballon d'Or top three.

    Samuel Eto'o
    Only Eden Hazard (14) scored more Premier League goals for Chelsea than Eto'o in Mourinho's first season back at Chelsea in 2013-14, with the Cameroon striker netting a hat-trick against reigning champions Manchester United.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic
    Ibrahimovic was top scorer in Serie A in Mourinho's first season with Inter, scoring 25 goals.

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    Jadon Sancho is the name on everyone's lips.

    The Borussia Dortmund teenager has taken Europe by storm and clubs are queuing up.

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    TOP STORY – UNITED IN TOUCH WITH SANCHO AGENT

    Manchester United have contacted Jadon Sancho's agent as they look to sign the Borussia Dortmund sensation, according to Fabrizio Romano.

    Sancho tops the list of United's transfer targets following his exploits for the Bundesliga side, with Liverpool and Chelsea also reportedly interested.

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    ROUND-UP

    - Tuttosport reports Chelsea are preparing a huge contract offer for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. It comes as the Blues reportedly look to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga.

    Juventus are interested in Achraf Hakimi, says Calciomercato. Achraf is set to return to Real Madrid following a two-year loan spell at Dortmund. Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked to the Moroccan full-back.

    Inter have named their price for Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, Calciomercato reports. With a release clause of €111m, Inter want at least €80m in cash.

    - Birmingham City's 16-year-old star Jude Bellingham is set to reject a transfer to United in favour of Dortmund, says Bild.

    Tottenham and Arsenal, along with Crystal Palace and West Ham, are eyeing Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, according to Team Talk.

    - Calciomercato claims Inter have not given up on signing Napoli forward Dries Mertens on a free transfer. The Belgian star is out of contract at the end of 2019-20.

    Madrid is the preferred option for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, says Marca. Liverpool, Dortmund and PSG have also emerged as possible suitors for the 17-year-old.

    - Corriere dello Sport says Valencia are eyeing Inter centre-back Diego Godin, who has been linked to United and Tottenham.

    Roma are lining up a move for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, says Diario AS. Clubs in Brazil and Qatar are also reportedly circling.

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