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Dec 18, 2012

Benzema lands French gong

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has said he is honoured to have picked up a second successive French Player of the Year award from France Football.

Zinedine Zidane presented the accolade, which is organised by the prestigious French magazine and chosen by a jury of former winners including Franck Ribery, Michel Platini, Thierry Henry, Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps, Patrick Vieira, Samir Nasri and David Ginola.

With 109 votes Benzema edged out Ribery (102 votes), with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in third place (62), Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud fourth (56) and Marseille schemer Mathieu Valbuena fifth (41).

"I am very happy to receive this prize for the second year running," Benzema told Madrid's website on Monday. "It is good for me and it is an honour that Zidane presented it because for me he is the best French player in history. It is a dream that it was him who presented me with the award."

The award comes as a boost for Benzema, who has not enjoyed the best 2012-13 season so far, with the Spanish media reporting that Madrid boss Jose Mourinho was unhappy with his performances and commitment.

Although Benzema had limped off half an hour into Madrid's 2-1 Copa del Rey loss at Celta Vigo last week with an ankle knock, Mourinho said on Friday he hoped the Frenchman would be able to play against Espanyol on Sunday, and included him in the match-squad.

In the end, Benzema did not make the bench for the game, in which Alvaro Morata, 20, appeared as a substitute and missed a late chance as Madrid drew 2-2 and slipped even further behind Barcelona in the title race.

The pair's relationship has had its ups and downs in the past, with Mourinho famously complaining in January 2011 about the difficulty of "going hunting with a cat", leading to Emmanuel Adebayor being signed on loan from Manchester City.

Benzema was back in Mourinho's good books after scoring 31 times in all competitions for Madrid last season, but he has only three in 13 Primera Division appearances this term and recent pointed references by the coach to players who are not sufficiently committed to the team have been taken in Madrid as barbs for the Frenchman.

Meanwhile, Gonzalo Higuain's continuing injury problems - the Argentine has not played since limping off with a thigh muscle problem against Borussia Dortmund in October - are also not helping Madrid's cause.

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