Zidane: Benzema is world’s best No.9

The French sharpshooter earned the plaudits of his countryman after another stellar display, while Gareth Bale once more struggled to make an impact

Zinedine Zidane singled out Karim Benzema as world football’s premier centre-forward after his hat-trick led Real Madrid to victory on Sunday.

Athletic had no answer to the former France international as he hit all of his side’s goals in a routine 3-0 victory at Santiago Bernabeu.

That triple brought him up to 21 goals for the season in La Liga, his best haul since 2015-16 and a league total higher than that of Cristiano Ronaldo in Serie A with newly crowned champions Juventus.

And his compatriot had no qualms in affirming that he had no peer in the No.9 position.

“For me Karim is the best No.9 in the world, although there are many good players, and others might choose someone else,” the Madrid idol signalled in a press conference after the final whistle.

“What he has been doing here over 10 years means everything.

“His goals are impressive and I am happy for him. He has confidence in himself, always aims to improve.

“But his team were helping him, with Marco’s [Asensio] cross, [Jesus] Vallejo’s recovery of the ball to start off the move for the first goal.”

While Benzema has stepped up to compensate the loss of goals signified by Ronaldo’s blockbuster move to Turin, strike partner Gareth Bale has fared rather less well.

The Wales international drew another blank on Sunday to extend his scoring drought for the Merengue to five matches, and has netted just eight times in La Liga this season.

Zidane admits that he would have liked to see Bale hit the net while hitting out at the jeers he received from certain sectors of the Bernabeu.

“The pity is that [Bale] had a chance to score, and I am sorry for him,” Zidane added

“I would have liked to see Gareth score. As always I will not get involved [in talking about future].

“The boos? No, I don’t understand that.”

Madrid remain in third position in La Liga following Sunday’s win, behind league leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.