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Ancelotti: “Benzema’s decision to leave came as a surprise”

The Italian coach spoke about how the club will try to replenish the forward line.

Real Madrid V Athletic Club De Bilbao - La Liga Santander Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti has held his final press conference of the season, speaking after Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Club on the final day. As was to be expected, there were several questions about Karim Benzema, as well as about the other departing forwards, and all his answers are outlined below.

Ancelotti on Benzema’s decision to leave

Ancelotti admitted that he thought Benzema was going to stay when he held his Saturday press conference and that he only learned of the decision on Sunday morning. Asked about the striker’s departure, he said: “He has been one of the best players in the world. One of the best footballers, not just one of the best forwards. He has achieved legendary things here and will always be remembered at this club. We can’t be happy that he’s leaving, but we must respect his decision. He has earned the right to decide what he wants to do. It was a surprise for everyone. It was only this morning that we found out. He told us about his decision and I told him I respected his decision and that I was grateful for all he’d done with me. We know he must have thought about it a lot. This club started a transition already a few years ago and that continues. We’ll have to think about what to do now and we know the squad will be competitive next season.”

Ancelotti on Asensio’s departure

Marco Asensio is leaving too and Ancelotti was asked if he felt regret at failing to convince the Spaniard to stay at the club. To that, he replied: “Asensio, Ceballos and Nacho were all finishing contracts and they each had a clear idea of what their future will be. Asensio decided he wanted to try something new, while Ceballos and Nacho are evaluating their situations currently. From what I see and hear, I think both will stay.”

Ancelotti on replacing the departing forwards

The coach spoke about the fact that so many forwards are departing all at once. He stated: “We’re losing four forwards today. We’ll have to make moves and we will, but we’ll do so calmly and without rushing. I’m not at all worried that we only have two forwards right now, because we have a lot of time. We’ll look for forwards who can score goals and who can link up well with the others, with the two young forwards we have in Vinícius and Rodrygo.”

Ancelotti on Hazard and Mariano

Asked about Hazard and Mariano and if he thought about giving them minutes too so that they could bid farewell, he explained: “Obviously I only had five substitutions and we wanted to win the game to help us finish second. Neither Hazard nor Mariano asked to be put on. They had a different kind of farewell, but it was also a nice one. Even if they didn’t have the careers of the others, they have both been professional and committed to the end.”

Ancelotti on Bellingham

Asked about Jude Bellingham, the coach dismissed that question. He simply stated: “I’m not going to speak about players who aren’t here.”

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