Karim Benzema said he hadn’t wanted to retire from football until he had won the Ballon d’Or, and revealed he was yet to received a congratulatory message from ex-Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo for winning the award.
Players often insist it’s the pursuit of collective glory that matters, but Benzema admitted the Ballon d’Or had been on his mind.
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“I always believed in myself, I knew that at some point, with my qualities and my ambitions, I could win it.
“That’s why, for the last four years, I’ve been pushing and pushing to get this trophy.”
Asked if Ronaldo had messaged him on his win, Benzema responded “No,” before adding “Tranquil,” a word suggesting it was no big deal.
Benzema has the opportunity to make his year an even greater one in the coming weeks, as he heads to Qatar for the World Cup with France.
And he called on his squad to relish their status as defending champions and among the favourites.
The 34-year-old said: “I have a lot of pride. I have a lot of joy, we know what a World Cup means. I can’t wait for it to start.
“All French people think the same thing. On paper we’re the best in the group, we mustn’t hide from that.
“We have a lot of talent in this team, but football is always the same. It’s 11 v 11 on the pitch, so we will have to be ambitious, respect our opponents and do everything we can to win our three games.
“Brazil are favourites, as Argentina can be, as Spain can be and France of course.
“We have to say it and we have to show that we are the favorites and that we want to win.”
Of his own condition, amid a hectic period of fixtures during which he has struggled with niggles, Benzema added: “We like to play football. The problem is that we aren’t machines.
“You always have to be at 100% and play every three days. At some point there are injuries, it’s normal.
“I’m fine, I had a few little aches and pains, a bit all over the place. It’s normal with the amount of games there have been.
“I’ve taken care of myself, I’ll be fit and present for the national team, so there’s no problem. I’ll be focused and concentrated on what I have to do.”
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