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Jan 17, 2011

Valdano questions Benzema benching

Real Madrid director general Jorge Valdano suggested Jose Mourinho may have made an error by leaving striker Karim Benzema on the bench during the side's 1-1 draw with Almeria.

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Mourinho spoke of his desire to bring in another striker during the summer and, with Gonzalo Higuain ruled out for the next four months and Benzema the only orthodox striker in the squad, Madrid have now confirmed the search for a new addition is underway. Miroslav Klose and Emmanuel Adebayor have been linked, but Hamburg's Ruud van Nistelrooy appears the most likely option.

Mourinho opted to start Benzema on the bench on Sunday, though, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Kaka and Mesut Ozil leading the attack, and Valdano said he was surprised by the decision.

"Ultimately, we are spectators to whatever the coach decides to do," he said. "He is a good striker who can give us many options going forward.

"I hope Benzema does not stay on the bench for too long. The situation surrounding him is unfair."

The result leaves Madrid four points behind Barcelona, but Mourinho stressed after the game that the season is still at the halfway point.

"This draw is two points lost," he said. "We always want to win, but there is the entire second half of the season to be played.

"We didn't play at the rhythm we are used to during the first half. Almeria defended very well, were very organised and played up to their potential. Hats off to them for earning a very important point."

He added: "I think we have done well so far. We have won 15 matches, lost one and drawn two, but it isn't enough to be champions. We hope to improve in the second half of the season."

Madrid had several penalty appeals turned down during the game. Benzema - on in the 54th minute for Kaka - and Ronaldo both went down in the area while Modeste M'Bami was accused of handball.

"Under normal conditions, if referees do their job with the same criteria for every team, La Liga is anybody's," Mourinho said. "We are halfway through the season and we can make up this deficit."

"I am not going to complain about the officiating. I prefer to speak well of referees, like I did last Thursday despite the fact that the goal conceded came from an offside position. If I don't have anything nice to say, I would rather not say anything.

"I know this referee from the first time I was in Spain. We all change over time, but Mr Perez Lasa is exactly the same in 2011 as he was in 1996."

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