Real Madrid star Karim Benzema crowns France comeback with top player award

Striker has scored nine goals for his country since return to the side

France forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring during a World Cup qualification match against Kazakhstan in November. AFP

Karim Benzema has crowned his surprising rehabilitation with Les Bleus by being named France Football's national player of the year.

The Real Madrid striker was recalled by France coach Didier Deschamps after being dropped by him in late 2015.

“It had been almost six years since I last played, I had to feel my way a little, watch, adapt. It didn't take long,” Benzema, who turned 34 in December, told France Football in an interview published on Saturday.

Benzema edged two previous winners, Kyian Mbappe and N'Golo Kante, in the France Football poll announced on Friday after scoring nine goals for his country since his return.

Filling the roll of a traditional central striker, he has linked well with the other two attackers, Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

“I find myself in the best circumstances,” he said, adding that the partnership with Mbappe and Griezmann is “working well”, and has grown even “better” than when he first returned last summer.

France coach Didier Deschamps with Karim Benzema. AP

“Now, when one drops, the other goes long, and vice versa. It's better,” he said.

Benzema scored four goals at the European Championship, including a pair as the world champions were surprisingly eliminated in the round of 16 by Switzerland, who fought back with two late goals to draw 3-3 and then won on penalties.

He finished the calendar year with a bang, scoring five goals in four internationals as France rebounded by winning the Nations League and completing a successful World Cup qualifying campaign.

“I just have to stay at this level,” he said. “Now we have to win collective trophies,” he said.

Updated: January 15th 2022, 7:18 AM