Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti issued a warning about Karim Benzema being ever better in 2023 after the Ballon d'Or winner's double in Friday's 2-0 victory at Real Valladolid.
Benzema missed the 2022 World Cup as France finished runners-up due to a quad injury sustained on the eve of the tournament. He has since announced his international retirement.
The 35-year-old forward brushed off that disappointment in Madrid's first game since LaLiga's resumption, netting an 83rd-minute penalty before doubling his tally six minutes later.
"I see Benzema very motivated, and I think you will see a different Benzema from now on in 2023," Ancelotti told DAZN.
In the 2022 calendar year, Benzema has been involved in more goals in all competitions than any other LaLiga player, with 40.
Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 appearances for Los Blancos last term but has had an injury-disrupted season this time around, netting eight times in 13 games.
On his team's performance, Ancelotti told LaLigaTV: "There are a lot of good news from this game.
"The result first, the performance of Thibaut [Courtois], the two goals of Karim. We finished this year, that was an amazing year, in the best way.
"It was really difficult. We started well, then we had difficulties, did well first half, did well at the end of the game. It's quite normal after you come back after a long holiday, it's not easy."
Madrid had plenty of representation at the World Cup and Ancelotti conceded that the mid-season re-integration has proved difficult.
"We have players with different conditions," the Italian said. "Some players arrived yesterday.
"It's true they also didn’t have their own break, only 10 days. There's not a lot of time to put all of them in good condition. We have to work on this."
Eduardo Camavinga, who only played twice for Les Bleus at Qatar 2022, earned praise from Ancelotti for his impact as a substitute, getting the assist for Benzema's sealer.
"He has shown it since he arrived," Ancelotti said. "He makes a difference when he enters the game because he has a lot of energy. He is an important player for us."