Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has thrown his full support behind the heavily criticised Karim Benzema, insisting he will defend his striker 'to the death'.
Zidane is growing increasingly frustrated at the level of scrutiny his 29-year-old striker has come under in recent times as the Frenchman insists his role is not solely about scoring goals, a feat which Benzema has accomplished just twice in the league this season.
The staunch defence of the 29-year-old comes ahead of his side's Club World Cup final, where Zidane said of his striker, via AS: "I don't agree with the criticism he's received. It's no big deal. What I am concerned about isn't just him scoring all of the time.
"Karim's role isn't only about getting goals. He's a different player, he's not going to score 60 goals, but he does other things.
"I like what he does for the team. Football is a team sport and he is one of the best players in that aspect of the game. And that is what I like in him.
even my mother won’t believe in me as much as zidane believe in benzema.— aisha (@carvaisha) December 15, 2017
"I'll continue to defend him to the death. He's not the only one who gets a hard time from the critics. There are players who sometimes don't have a good game, but I defend my players when they could take these things to heart, which isn't the case with Karim by the way," he added.
Whilst Real Madrid prepare to defend their Club World Cup title, Zidane's side also face the prospect of meeting their arch rivals Barcelona next week and with their form having stuttered so far this season, the Real Madrid boss admits a win against Gremio would ensure his side enter the heated contest with confidence and momentum.
He said: "Yes, for one reason, we are only here for winning the Champions League. Winning trophies is one of the nicest things that exists in football, so we're not thinking about Barcelona just yet.
"I think we're growing as a team, but we have to show it and this final is an ideal moment to do so."