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Ancelotti: “Benzema has returned with a lot of motivation”

The coach’s first press conference in seven weeks.

Real Madrid CF v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid are finally about to return to action, as they’ll play a LaLiga Santander match away at Real Valladolid on Friday night. Ahead of that game, Carlo Ancelotti held his first press conference in seven weeks on Thursday and discussed a number of topics, about the club, about transfers and about the World Cup that just concluded.

Starting off, he said: “We’re excited to be back. We’ve been training well. Those who just returned are available, but I’ll probably prioritise the ones who have been here and training for longer. The only player definitely out is Mariano, who has an injury. We have a demanding fixture list coming up, with the Super Cup and the Club World Cup too. We’ll have to play a lot of games, but we’ll evaluate each player individually during this period. Some players will need more rest than others.”

Ancelotti on Benzema’s return

Discussing Karim Benzema, Ancelotti was asked about France’s decision to send him home from the World Cup because of an injury. The coach didn’t want to criticise Didier Deschamps’ decision, but is happy to have the No.9 back. He said: “I won’t speak about France’s decision. It means we have a player who is back with a lot of motivation. He’s very excited to be back after not being able to play much in the first part of the season. He came back on December 10th after some holidays and he looked quite good when he returned. He started training with the team and played 30 minutes in our first warm-up friendly and then 45 minutes in the second friendly.”

Ancelotti on Hazard’s minutes

On Eden Hazard, Ancelotti revealed that the Belgian should have more minutes over the coming weeks, stating: “Hazard has been training well and I think he’s doing better now than he was before the World Cup. With all the matches we have coming up, we’ll need to use the whole squad and Hazard will be one of those players who’ll play more in the second half of the season.”

Ancelotti on the out-of-contract players

There are seven Real Madrid players with contracts expiring in the summer, meaning they’ll be free to negotiate with other clubs from the start of January. Asked if he is concerned about this, Ancelotti replied: “This doesn’t worry me because all the players are very committed and training well. I think there’s plenty of time to evaluate each of these situations properly. If they renew then I’ll be happy, but if they think they need to leave the club then I’ll be happy for them too.”

Ancelotti on the rumoured Brazil interest

Speaking about his own future, Ancelotti was asked if the rumours of the Brazilian FA being interested in him were true. He replied: “If they’re interested, I don’t know because they haven’t contacted me. I appreciate their interest if it exists, but my situation here is quite clear. I’ll never say that I want to leave this club.”

Ancelotti on no signings coming in the January transfer market

Looking ahead to the winter transfer market, Ancelotti stated that there will be no signings. He said: “We won’t be signing anyone because the squad is well constructed. In terms of exits, we don’t know. Some of the players who play less might look to go somewhere where they’d play more. But, there won’t be any incomings.”

Ancelotti on the signing of Endrick

One player who will be arriving in a few transfer windows’ time, though, is Endrick. On the young Brazilian, Ancelotti said: “We have spoken a little bit and we’re very happy that he can join the club in 2024. He is a great player and talent and we’re excited for him to join.”

Ancelotti on Messi’s legacy after the World Cup

During the press conference, Ancelotti was asked if Lionel Messi’s World Cup win now confirms him as the GOAT. But, the Italian wouldn’t commit to that. Instead, he said: “Messi did really well. He is a great footballer and everybody knows that. Now he has a World Cup to his name. Does that make him the best ever? Sincerely, I don’t know. It’s hard to compare between different eras. To say that Messi has been the greatest in history won’t come out of my mouth. I have enjoyed watching so many players over the years, such as the current Ballon d’Or Benzema, who I get to see train every day. I’ve also watched Maradona, Cruyff… So, I really don’t know who the best in history is.”

Ancelotti on other conclusions from the World Cup

Looking back on some other patterns from the World Cup, Ancelotti was first asked if he thinks the tournament in Qatar showed that tiki taka no longer has a future in the game. To that, he replied: “It’s still an important part of football. I’ve said there isn’t just one way to play, but the touch football is also useful for managing the tempo of a game. It’s about knowing when to use it. I don’t think you can just play touch football.”

He was also asked about the lengthy stoppage time that was added on at the World Cup, something that has already been happening in LaLiga matches. On that, he added: “Yes, there was a lot of stoppage time. I think sooner or later we’ll get to a point where the clock stops. That’s the simplest way to do it.”

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