Karim Benzema asked for Reece James’ shirt after Real Madrid knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League quarter-finals, in a sign of respect for the defender.
After his hat-trick stole the show in the first leg of the mouth-watering match-up at Stamford Bridge, the veteran striker struck again in extra-time to send the LaLiga side through despite them losing 3-2 at home.
His header on 96 minutes left Edouard Mendy clutching at thin air and Antonio Rudiger floored, and ended the Blues’ hopes of a remarkable aggregate comeback.
But in a touching display of sportsmanship, Benzema requested the shirt from James, who battled valiantly with the frontman across both showdowns.
England man James was booked in the early stages of the clash but stood out as one of his side’s best performers, having created chances and stood firm at the back.
Despite being scant consolation after his team’s elimination, the 22-year-old took home a souvenir from the encounter in the form of Benzema’s jersey.
Footage caught the moment the red-hot hitman made a bee-line for James at the final whistle, amid the celebrations from his team-mates and supporters.
There, Benzema handed over his shirt, with both players heading to the tunnel.
And before they left the pitch to walk to their respective dressing rooms, James also removed his top and handed it to his mercurial opponent.
For large periods of the game, it appeared Chelsea would be able to pull off a seemingly impossible task, having moved into a three-goal led to pull level overall.
However, Rodrygo, who was sent on as a substitute for the rocking hosts, rescued them late on with a crisp strike at the far post following Luka Modric’s wonder-pass.
The drama did not end there, though, with Thomas Tuchel’s side on the wrong end of a European knockout after Benzema guided a header home.
James and Co will now turn their attentions to their FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace this weekend, with a spot at Wembley and a shot at silverware up for grabs.
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