Lineker's Benzema criticism embarrassing - Zidane hails Madrid striker as 'the best'

Gary Lineker's questions over Karim Benzema's quality were given short shrift by Real Madrid head-coach Zinedine Zidane.

Zinedine Zidane has labelled Gary Lineker's criticism of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as "embarrassing".   -  Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane has labelled Gary Lineker's criticism of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as "embarrassing".

During Madrid's 1-1 Champions League draw against Tottenham on Tuesday, former England striker Lineker tweeted to claim Benzema was "a tad overrated" and "decent, not great".

The 29-year-old Frenchman endured a frustrating outing in front of goal in midweek, with compatriot Hugo Lloris completing a remarkable save from a close-range header to ensure Benzema's tally for the season remains on two from eight matches in all competitions.

Speaking ahead of Madrid's La Liga match with Eibar on Sunday, Zidane said it was unrealistic for Benzema to provide prolific returns on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo.

But he labelled his forward as the best man to lead the line for Madrid – a pointed observation given recent speculation suggesting Spurs' Harry Kane could be on Madrid's radar.

"It's not just Karim, he's annoying me with [what he says about] Karim because, for people who know football, it's embarrassing," Zidane said, addressing the views of one-time Barcelona forward Lineker.

"He's the best number nine for Madrid, by a long way. Karim will not score 60 goals, but he will score 20 goals and assists for 30 or 40 more.

"It bothers me when people talk badly about my players. For me, Benzema is the best.

"For me, a striker doesn't only need to score goals. Karim has everything, not only the goals.

"If Karim has been at Real Madrid for almost 10 years it's not an accident. He always recovers from everything, always shows his qualities.

"On the pitch, he is the best. He has everything. Every quality for a footballer. He could improve, he knows, and he works for it. When he scores more goals, he will be happier".

Barcelona's draw at Atletico Madrid last weekend means Zidane's men have trimmed the gap to their rival at the summit to five points but they will be without first-choice goalkeeper Keylor Navas (thigh) when Eibar visits the Bernabeu.

"We won't risk Keylor, it’s another different injury," Zidane explained, the 30-year-old having returned from international duty with Costa Rica carrying an adductor problem earlier this month. 

He adds to a significant injury list for the reigning Spanish and European champion.

"I think it's a small thing but it's inevitable in football. You can ask me why there are so many injuries, I talk to people who know more and there's no explanation," the coach added.

"Sometimes that happens and we're sure to get all the players back in shape. We're a little upset about all the injuries we have."

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