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In his fourth season in the Santiago Bernabéu spotlight, Real Madrid CF striker Karim Benzema is now happy to stand on his own two feet – albeit with the help of a certain Zinédine Zidane.
A rising star with Olympique Lyonnais during five years in the French top flight, Benzema has gone from strength to strength since moving to the Spanish capital in 2009. Eight Liga goals in his first season were followed by 15 in 2010/11 and a further 21 last term; the 24-year-old has no plans to halt that upward curve quite yet.
"My ambitions are always the same – to improve all the time," the France forward told Champions Matchday magazine. "I am lucky to play for a great club. I need good seasons, like last year, and to perform well with the national team as well. What am I missing to become a great player? I don't know. But I am working hard to become a great player, and I will keep working hard."
Benzema arrived in Madrid looking to follow in the footsteps of two men who undoubtedly fall into that top echelon, Ronaldo and Zidane. "It was my first season at Madrid," he added. "I had the opportunity to meet [Ronaldo]. I followed him as a kid and was inspired by him. To me, he is one of the greatest players of all time. To me, he's the best. Zizou as well ... It was a dream: I met him, I talked with him. I was very happy."
Zidane, who won the 2002 UEFA Champions League with the Merengues, remains a source of great inspiration. "I always ask him for advice and he gives me some," said Benzema. "I hope I will have a different career to his, but similar [success]."
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