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Sport confidential: Karim Benzema

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The Real Madrid striker on training with Ronaldo and why you shouldn’t buy him a seat on a plane...

He’s famously turned down Manchester United’s advances time and again, but the lure of talking about his training routine to ShortList proved irresistible to Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema. Roberto Mancini – you should start taking notes ahead of next week’s Champions League game.

What percentage of your weekly football training is based in the gym and what do you do in there?

Most of it is on the training pitch, but we do gym work as well. We do more [gym work] in pre-season or if we are coming back from injury, but in a regular week it will be no more than say 20 per cent.

Are weights important to improve your strength on the pitch?

They can be, but you don’t want to be heavy on top. They can be important for toning the body, but you never want to get to the point where you are too heavy in the top half of your body.

What else do you tend to do in the gym?

It’s mainly just cardio work. We do bike work at least four days a week.

How important is your speed and what do you do to work on that?

For me it is important to be fast over short distances and try to lose the defender. I work on speed exercises every day in training, which involves high intensity sprinting drills.

If you’re not on the same team as Cristiano Ronaldo in a training match, how do you stop him?

It’s not easy. You try to stay close to him and he can beat you for pace, and if you drop off him he is almost impossible to stop when he is running at you with the quickness of his feet. That’s what makes him the best player in the world.

You’re a striker, what are the best drills to improve your shooting?

We do a lot of first touch shooting. The environment of a game is very different, and when you are playing against top players you don’t always get time to take a touch. To be able to shoot with confidence first time is a skill all good forward players need.

What’s the most extreme measure you’ve gone to to look after your body?

I don’t think it’s extreme, but I literally only sit down on flights now for take-off and landing. I have had muscle problems before, and it is not good for me to be sat in one position. None of the Real Madrid or France guys want to sit next to me, because they know I will be up every five minutes.

What about your nutrition, what do you eat before a match and what do you avoid?

Our diet is the same most of the time – not just 24 hours before a game. We eat together after training and the day of a game, and it is usually grilled chicken with rice or pasta. Sometimes on a Sunday evening after a game we will go out with friends and family for a nice meal, but the other six days of the week we are very strict with our diet.

What’s the one part of life that you have to deny yourself, but really miss?

Rest is a big part of the culture at Real Madrid. The coaching staff ask us to be in bed early when we have training and games, and sometimes you want to go to the movies or for dinner. It’s not a big deal though, success tastes better than anything.

Do you do any mental preparation like visualising being successful on the pitch?

José Mourinho is probably the most prepared man in football. He lets you know everything there is to know about the other team and about the players you will be coming up against during the game. There is so much preparation on his part, you go into the game feeling like you can’t lose.

(Image: Rex Features)

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