Gary Lineker answers LaLiga questions


Gary Lineker has tackled the burning LaLiga issues of the day, responding to the hottest takes in Spanish football from fans across the globe, exclusively for LaLigaTV.

Answering ten fan questions, the FC Barcelona legend gave his insight on Karim Benzema’s quest for the Ballon d’Or, Diego Simeone’s special connection with Atletico Madrid and Vinicius Jr’s rapid rise to the top


On Karim Benzema’s Ballon d’Or chances

I don’t think anyone would argue that he has been one of the best players this season. Certainly, in LaLiga, possibly in the world, and I think he’s probably currently favourite. I know it’s only April, but Benzema is currently favourite for the Ballon d’Or.


On Karim Benzema’s career after Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid

Benzema has played second fiddle to Ronaldo, and therefore Benzema has stepped up since Ronaldo left and has improved. I think Benzema has actually been allowed to play more of a role that suits him, rather than perhaps suits Ronaldo.


Is Carlo Ancelotti the best coach in the history of Real Madrid?

Well, he has to be up there, doesn’t he? Really, Zidane did a brilliant job, won all those Champions Leagues, so he’s had more Champions League victories than Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti’s come back and done a brilliant job with a relatively aging team, with, obviously, a couple of young stars. So, I’d definitely put him up there, right in the top three, and, what’s more, he’s a really likeable guy, as well.


Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid are a match made in heaven

He will probably be there a very long time, he’s already been there a very long time, hasn’t he? And if ever there’s proof that a team is a reflection of its coach’s personality then I think Atleti is it, and he keeps producing great seasons. This one not quite as good as seasons previously, but he ran Manchester City very close in that Champions League encounter.


On Gavi being the biggest breakout star this season

Well, I suppose if we say that Pedri was already a star, because he was obviously playing in the Euros, then I don’t disagree with Gavi being the biggest breakout star. I think that’s absolutely true, Gavi has been superb. Vinicius Jr though I know he’s been around for a while, has had such a big improvement this season that you would have to possibly include him. I’m going to agree with you though, Gavi’s been great.


Xavi as a manager compared to Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola are two of the greatest coaches in Barcelona’s history, make that in football’s history. If Xavi goes even half as well as either of them, then he’ll be very good indeed, but who knows? He’s had a very special start at Barcelona, he’s doing a brilliant job so far under difficult circumstances, but he’s got some great young players, and if he’s as good as Cruyff and Pep Guardiola, that’ll be amazing. If he’s even better, he’ll be the best coach of all time.


On the job Unai Emery is doing at Villarreal

Well, he’s certainly doing an absolutely brilliant job at Villareal, in the Champions League anyway. They’ve obviously not had such a great season in the league, in LaLiga, but they’re in the semi-finals, and yes, I think you’re probably right, it’d be one of the greatest upsets, really. Obviously, such a tiny town, obviously financial backing, but Emery has done an absolutely brilliant job, totally agree.


On whether Real Betis are the surprise team in LaLiga this season

I think that is fair enough, they’ve still got a chance of making that Champions League place, they might fight it out with their local rivals, Sevilla. We’ll have to wait and see. Yeah, I think they have been the surprise team.


On if Vinicius Jr will win the Ballon d’Or before Neymar

I think it is probably too late for Neymar to win the Ballon d’Or. He tends to get a few injuries with his ankles these days, he is getting towards the end of his career and he’s probably past his absolute peak. But you never know, he’s wonderfully talented and a brilliant player. Vinicius Jr is improving rapidly, he’s had a terrific season. There was always that worry that his final ball or certainly his finishing wasn’t going to be good enough, but he’s really improved that this season. And who knows, he might be a future Ballon d’Or winner.


On Iago Aspas being underrated

Well, he certainly has been a really consistent goal scorer, hasn’t he, for a long time, what is he, 34 now? Brilliant for Celta Vigo over such a long period of time, so I would say he probably is underrated, he obviously had that little spell at Liverpool where things didn’t really go for him, but I’m not going to argue with that one.




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