Varane praises Mourinho influence at Real Madrid

Raphael Varane has spoken about the influence coach Jose Mourinho had on his progress since arriving at Real Madrid.

The France Under-21 international, who was handed the Blancos‘ prestigious No.2 shirt ahead of the 2012-13 season, feels his route to the first team is owed to his boss giving him a chance to showcase his potential.

“Mourinho gives me a lot. He trusts me, lets me express myself and shows me the demands of elite sport and everything that implies. I learn a lot from him,” the 19-year-old was quoted as saying on the official website.

He also reflected on Madrid’s successful Liga campaign last term and his process of integrating into the team.

“We won the league, which was great,” he added. “It was a good year both personally and as part of a team. As an individual, I have settled in well and made my mark on the dressing room.

“I have seen the good side of everything and I have also seen how big and important this club is.”

Varane then concluded by looking at his side’s upcoming clash with Levante, recognising the tough physical challenge that could await them.

“It will be a difficult match,” the former Lens man continued. “We know that Levante are a good team and we will have to be alert to measure up in every aspect. It will be a very physical encounter.”

Madrid currently sit third in the league, eight points behind table-toppers Barcelona.

'I've spent more time on the bench than on the pitch' – Benzema

Karim Benzema has expressed his frustration at the amount of time he has spent on the substitutes bench for Real Madrid this season.

The 24-year-old has struggled for consistency so far, scoring only once in nine Liga matches, and thus has has slipped behind Gonzalo Higuian in the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Though the French forward concedes that he wants to be playing more frequently, he insists he will take his chance to impress when it comes, adding that boss Jose Mourinho is fully supportive of his contribution to the team.

“Sure I want to play more and I’ve spent more time on the bench than the pitch, but I’m going to fight to take advantage of the minutes they give me,” Benzema was quoted as saying by L’Equipe.

“He [Mourinho] is always behind me and never lets me give up. Even when things are going well he is always telling me I’m doing okay, including when things go very well. He does this so we can all maintain a very high level.

“When I get playing time I try to do my best and score or give an assist, but I can never relax.”

Benzema has been criticised by the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin for his displays for France, and although the former Lyon star admits his scoring record for Les Bleus could be better, he tries to adapt his game for the good of the team.

“It’s true that I’ve scored less than I have with Madrid but I take part in much of the play and try to create space,” he continued.

“I’m not worried about it because I make some decisive passes. If they wanted me to I wouldn’t give any assists, play solely in the area and score more goals.

“I could do that but it would be detrimental to the team.”

Drogba: Ronaldo and Messi are monsters

Shanghai Shenhua striker Didier Drogba has branded Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi football’s two “monsters”.

The 34-year old was talking about his selection for the winner of the 2012 Ballon d’Or, but refused to share who his choice would be, and instead took the time to talk of his admiration for the pair.

“We all know it is between two, the two monsters that are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo,” he told FranceFootball.fr.

“You do not realise but they have revolutionised the statistics. Before them it was a feat to score 30 goals a season in a major championship. For several years now they have scored over 40. They are phenomenal.

“I cannot tell you who my vote is going to though, as I will be killed.”

The Ivory Coast international also revealed that he is still in touch with Jose Mourinho, who he played for during his time at Chelsea.

“I always get messages from him, and Abramovich too. The problem with this is that Jose does not understand there is a large time difference and he sends me texts whenever I am asleep!”

Cartoon of the Day: Fabregas models himself on childhood hero Zidane

Cesc Fabregas has never hidden his love for Barcelona but he has now revealed that his hero as a child was none either than Zinedine Zidane, particularly when he was in his pomp at Barca’s fierce rivals Real Madrid.

The former Arsenal captain has told how his bedroom wall was covered in posters of the French ace and has enjoyed reminiscing about the 2008 Ballon d’Or winner.

While the Barcelona man has some way to go to match Zidane’s achievements in the game, the big question is: just how far will Fabregas go to emulate his hero?

Fabregas models himself on Zidane

Real Madrid have the best youth academy in Spain, says Pavon

Former Real Madrid man Francisco Pavon insists the club’s youth system is better than Barcelona’s La Masia.

The Santiago Bernabeu side have recently been criticised for their hesitance to field players from their own academy, but Pavon – himself a product of the Madrid youth setup – hit back at those critics.

“Everyone always wants to talk about the academy, and I believe Madrid’s academy is the best in Spain and one of the best in Europe,” Pavon was quoted as saying by AS.

“It has always produced great players, whether they play for Madrid or for other teams. Many of the best players in the world have come from Madrid’s academy.”

Pavon then took the time to respond to Barcelona director Andoni Zubizarreta’s suggestion that Madrid are afraid to put their faith in promising youngsters.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with being brave, it’s more about necessity,” he added.

“The team designs its squad in July after the season, and the academy players are a part of those squads, but is only when first team players get injured that they get a chance to fill in.”

Pavon, 32, made over 100 appearances for Madrid and was part of the squad that won the Champions League in 2002.