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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

Barcelona
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By ESPN Staff

Benzema mixed over the leaving of Lyon

Outgoing Lyon striker Karim Benzema has confessed to mixed feelings over his impending move to Real Madrid. The 21-year-old is set to join Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in signing a six-year contract at the Bernabeu after his French employers agreed to a 35 million euro (£30million) approach from big-spending Madrid.

Benzema is Lyon through and through, having been born in the city and come through the youth ranks at Stade Gerland.

He burst onto the scene in the 2007-08 season with 31 goals in 51 games, and averaged a goal every other game in the season just completed.

Such form attracted the attentions of Madrid president Florentino Perez, who has vowed to return the Spanish club to former glories by signing a new breed of galacticos.

Benzema's inclusion in that bracket is an indication of how high the France international's stock has risen in the past two years, but the player is aware of the debt of gratitude he owes to his hometown club.

"I'm sad and happy at the same time," Benzema revealed in an interview with club website.

"I'm happy because I'll be signing for a great club, which is one of the biggest in the world.

"But I'm sad because I'm leaving behind my friends, the people with whom I grew up here in Lyon - I love all these things. But I will always follow Lyon because this club made me grow.

"I owe them everything."

While sad to be leaving Lyon behind, Benzema - whose move to Madrid is still waiting on the formality of a medical - is eagerly anticipating what awaits him in the Primera Division.

"That's all I wanted when I was young [to play for Madrid]," he continued.

"Around where I'm from we all followed Madrid - that's a true story.

"When I was 16-18 this is the team I dreamed of above all. Now, in a few weeks, I'll be there. I am very happy."

Benzema is aware that at 21 he is far from the finished article, and admits he will have much to learn from his more experienced, and costly, galactico colleagues.

"They are big stars," he said of Kaka and Ronaldo.

"These two are great players, Ballon d'Or winners. I must learn at their side."

Questioned as to whether he felt he could emulate the achievements of his future team-mates in winning the Ballon d'Or, awarded to the best footballer in Europe, he replied: "Yes, I have thought about this.

"I must just keep having good seasons with many great matches whether with the club or the French national side.

"For me, this must be a player's goal in his head, even if it's an individual trophy.

"But if you want to be a somebody in football, and be recognised, you need to win the Ballon d'Or at least once. It's always in the back of my mind.

"All that's happened to me so far has been a dream, but I must keep working to make others come true."

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