Zinedine Zidane hits back at Gary Lineker over Karim Benzema remarks
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says former England striker Gary Lineker's criticism of Karim Benzema is "embarrassing" coming from someone within the game.
After Benzema had missed three relatively simple chances in Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League game against Tottenham at the Bernabeu, ex-Tottenham and Barcelona star Lineker wrote on Twitter that the Madrid striker might be "overrated" and could be seen to be "rescued" by teammate Cristiano Ronaldo's goal-scoring feats.
Meanwhile, reports in Spain claimed that Madrid's hierarchy were very impressed with Harry Kane's attitude and performance during Tuesday's game, and had asked Tottenham's hierarchy to name their price for the England captain.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday's La Liga game with Eibar at the Bernabeu, Zidane said Benzema was "by a long way" the best possible centre-forward for Madrid due to his all-round play and ability to support his teammates.
"I get annoyed about Karim," Zidane said. "For people who know about football to say this is embarrassing, but for me he is the best of them all, by a long way. People think a No. 9 here [at Madrid] needs to score 50, 60 goals. Karim will not score 60, but he will score 25, 30 and set up 30 or 40. So I get annoyed when people talk about my players, although we cannot avoid it."
Is it me or is Benzema a tad overrated? A goal every other game in a team as strong as Real Madrid is nada especial. Decent not great.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 17, 2017
Benzema is almost certain to start against Eibar on Sunday evening, although goalkeeper Keylor Navas' latest adductor problem has seen him join an injury list that already includes Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Mateo Kovacic.
Twelve of Madrid's 24 senior players have already missed at least one game for fitness reasons in 2017-18, which Zidane admitted was a frustration.
"Keylor's injury is a new problem, but it is not too serious," he said. "You can ask me why we are having so many injuries, but there is no explanation -- it can happen sometimes, over the course of a season.
We will have all our players fit [soon], although it's true that at the moment we are bothered by all the injuries we are having."
Tuesday's draw against Tottenham means Madrid have only won two of their last six games at the Bernabeu, with slips against Real Betis, Valencia and Levante contributing to their current position of third in the table, five points behind leaders Barcelona.
"When you look at our results, we are not doing so badly," Zidane said. "Of course we can improve, and we will. We are five points behind the [Liga] leader, we are top in the Champions League [group] and we have already won two [Supercup] trophies.
"I don't know if people have already forgotten that, but we have not. We play for another in December [the Club World Cup], and then there is La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, so we are on the right path. We should not get worried."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan