Mourinho hopes Benzema will improve
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is hoping Karim Benzema can overcome the negative press he has received and fulfil his potential at the club.
The 22-year-old has failed to live up to expectations since joining Madrid for 35 million euros from Lyon in summer 2009, and has been linked with a move away from the Spanish capital.
He was given a rare start by Mourinho in Tuesday’s goalless Copa del Rey clash in Murcia but put in a lacklustre performance and was substituted late on.
Mourinho, however, believes Benzema can turn things around.
He said: "I have always believed that players should be held responsible (for their performances). The coach is nothing more than a collaborator. It is up to the player.
"Much has been written about him, but the majority of it is untrue.
"He isn’t playing well, but he isn’t dead. He is very much alive and I called him up (for the squad to play Hercules tomorrow).
"We hope he can improve because he has the potential.
"Other teams have great players in similar situations and nothing has been said about them. Football is like this. Strikers feed off goals.
"Tomorrow he will start on the bench and if he has to play, he will. We have a good relationship."
One player Mourinho has no worries over is fellow Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, whose four-goal haul against Racing Santander last Saturday helped Madrid to a second consecutive 6-1 Primera Division win at the Bernabeu.
"Cristiano is an incredible team player," said Mourinho. "He won two games with Portugal and has won every game with Real Madrid this month.
That’s all that matters to the two of us.
"I knew the player, not the person. Now I know him and he is a true winner. He is always concerned about the team and about winning. He has had a fantastic month, he is in great form and he wants to continue."
Meanwhile, Mourinho believes it is more difficult for a manager to have longevity at a big club in Spain than in England.
The Portuguese, who made his name as a top coach by guiding Porto to 2004 Champions League glory before moving to England and enjoying a successful stint as Chelsea boss, leading the Blues to two Premier League titles.
He moved to Madrid in the summer after guiding Inter Milan to an unprecedented treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League glory, and believes working in Spain is all the more difficult because of an ever-present need to win.
Quoted on realmadrid.com, he said: "Staying on with a great club for such a long time is hard in the culture in which we live.
"It is much easier in England. There you find people who stay on for years having not won a thing.
"It is hard here because the need to win is always present. If I stay for four years it means I have done things right and that we are all happy, and I would be thrilled to continue."
Madrid head into the clash at Hercules top of the domestic standings and their Champions League group, leaving Mourinho more than satisfied to the start he has made to life in his new role.
"Those who work closest with the first team have adjusted and are pleased with the way we are organised," he said.
"Structure is very important to the team and we are playing well for having been together for such little time. Sitting top in the Champions League and La Liga brings stability. I am very comfortable and happy."