Mourinho praises Benzema’s progress

Jose Mourinho is taking the credit for Karim Benzema’s recent

progress at Real Madrid.

The France striker struggled to establish himself as a regular

starter after joining in July 2009 from Lyon, and his departure

from the club seemed certain earlier this season.

But Benzema has managed to turn his fortunes around, scoring

eight goals in his past five games.

”Everybody can see that he is a better player,” Mourinho said

in an interview with L’Equipe newspaper published Monday. ”He’s

improved because his coach is a demanding one, and has asked for a

different attitude from him – both at training and on the


Benzema signed a six-year deal worth ?35 million with Madrid and

had a disappointing first season with the Spanish giants, scoring

only eight goals in the league and struggling for a place in the

starting lineup, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain the

first-choice strikers.

Mourinho, who joined Real after winning the Champions League

with Inter last season, said Madrid officials had taken the wrong

approach with the 23-year-old striker.

”There was almost an obsession about him,” Mourinho said. ”He

had to become a great player, an important player at Real. For

that, they were almost tempted to make his life easier: ‘OK, you

don’t play very well, but you will play. You don’t work a lot but

you have to play because we cannot block the progress of a talent

that cost so many millions.”

Mourinho said he took the opposite view and persuaded Benzema

that his success would only come through hard work and


”I won’t give you anything,” Mourinho told the striker. ”If

you don’t win, you will drown. But if you win, you’ll come out of

this stronger.”

Benzema was severely criticized by the Spanish press earlier

this season and newspaper Marca even wrote ”He’s Dead” after the

Frenchman failed to impress in a Copa del Rey match against a third

division team.

Real then signed striker Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City

on loan in January, with the move seen as new proof of Mourinho’s

lack of confidence in Benzema.

”A lot of people thought I wanted a third striker because I

didn’t like Benzema,” Mourinho said. ”But I wanted a third

striker because I needed one. I definitely didn’t want to make

things more difficult for Karim or brush him aside.”

Benzema has scored 21 goals in all competition with Madrid this

season. He also carried his form into France’s Euro 2012 qualifying

campaign, winning the support of coach Laurent Blanc.

”He’s improved because he convinced himself that it’s important

for him,” Mourinho said. ”I didn’t give him anything. The result

is that today Karim has not become a big boy, but a man.”