Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has backed Karim Benzema to be a Ballon d'Or contender this year after an extraordinary start to the LaLiga season which has seen the forward contribute eight goals and seven assists in just six games.
Benzema's fine form continued in Real Madrid's 6-1 win over Mallorca on Wednesday, as he scored twice -- and provided Marco Asensio with two more -- to help put the team top of the table.
It follows a stellar 2020-21 in which he scored 23 league goals before returning to the France team for Euro 2020, where he found the net four times in as many games, reports Reuters.
"Yes, I think for what he's doing and what he did last season, [Benzema] has to be on the list of players who could win the Ballon d'Or," Ancelotti said in a news conference on Friday ahead of Madrid's LaLiga game with Villarreal. "Having said that, Karim has time to win it. I don't think this will be his last season. I think Karim is like wine, he gets better with age."
Benzema was joined on the scoresheet against Mallorca by Asensio, who grabbed a hat trick in his first start of the season playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role.
Asensio's agent said on Friday that the Spain international had been unhappy at his lack of minutes -- and the prospect of leaving Real Madrid on loan had been considered before a chat with Ancelotti this week.
"Marco was important before the game -- even if he hadn't played -- and he's important after the game too," Ancelotti said. "He did well and showed his quality. He showed he can play inside in a different position. He's a very, very important player in the squad."
Eden Hazard was an unused substitute against Mallorca having started Madrid's win away at Valencia three days earlier.
Ancelotti said last week that, given his injury record, playing two games in a row "could be difficult" for the former Chelsea winger.
"The important thing for Hazard in this moment is he's training well, he doesn't have problems, and he's recovered well from the Valencia game," the Italian added.
"But even if he's 100 per cent we still can't guarantee that he'll play every game, we can't guarantee that for any of this squad... The important thing for us is that Hazard is well and it seems that he is."