Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has denied that Karim Benzema‘s ongoing fitness issues could affect his ability to perform at the World Cup, dismissing the idea that the France forward has been protecting himself ahead of the tournament by missing recent games for his club side.
Benzema did not train with his Madrid teammates ahead of their final LaLiga match before the World Cup break, a clash against Cadiz at the Bernabeu on Thursday.
The Ballon d’Or winner’s absence this month has coincided with a Madrid slump — they dropped points in a 1-1 home draw with Girona last week and in a 3-2 loss at Rayo Vallecano on Monday to fall behind Barcelona in the title race.
“What bothers me is that Karim hasn’t been able to help the team in these games with his quality,” Ancelotti said in a news conference on Wednesday.
“He’s tried, but he hasn’t been able to come back with this discomfort. It isn’t much. He’s tried to be available and he hasn’t been able to.”
Benzema was out for a month earlier this season with a hamstring problem and has made just one appearance in the last three weeks — coming on as a second-half substitute in Madrid’s 5-1 Champions League group-stage win over Celtic — with the World Cup now just 11 days away.
“Karim is the first to be disappointed,” Ancelotti said, calling suggestions Benzema was protecting himself “stupid.”
“He’s going into playing a World Cup without the minutes he needs to be in good condition. He’s had a problem, it isn’t serious, he’s been working individually but his feeling to play a game hasn’t been good. Karim himself is the most disappointed, because he’s going to play a World Cup, as Ballon d’Or winner, without many minutes in his legs.”
Ancelotti said Benzema’s participation in the tournament had never been in doubt.
“The first injury against Celtic [on Sept. 6] was an important injury,” Ancelotti said. “He recovered and this discomfort hasn’t been serious. I don’t think his World Cup has been in danger.”
Benzema scored 27 LaLiga goals last season — along with 15 in the Champions League — to fire Madrid to victory in both competitions and won the Ballon d’Or last month.
He is expected to lead the line for France at the World Cup after returning from a six-year absence from international football in 2021.
France coach Didier Deschamps will name his final squad for the tournament in Qatar on Wednesday at 7 p.m. GMT, 2 p.m. ET.