Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is “one of the most underrated players in history” according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.
Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.
The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d’Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti’s team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.
The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.
Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former “awesome”.
“For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays,” Ceferin said.
“Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone’s shadow.
“It’s amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.
“We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all.”
After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City’s expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition’s history.
He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti’s men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.
“That’s the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world,” he added. “And when you watch these games… it’s amazing.
“I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs.
“But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.
“The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I’m looking forward to the final.”
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