Still only 31 years old, Karim Benzema seems to have been on the football scene for quite some time. The forward has spent nearly a decade at Real Madrid, while if you had said he had been there for 20 years, one wouldn’t be surprised, such is his longevity.
He has just come off the back of playing a starring role as Madrid secured a strong advantage over Ajax in the Champions League in midweek, netting the opener as Los Blancos head back to the Bernabeu for the return leg with a 2-1 lead, in what felt like his 100,000th game for the club.
In light of Madrid president Florentino Perez’s recent remarks about Benzema being the world’s best striker, it seems only fitting to assess those claims by virtue of dissecting the Frenchman’s career so far and whether it is justifiable to reward the striker with such high acclaim.
Galacticos have come and gone in the past ten years at a rate similar to that of BHS furniture sales, yet still Benzema has remained. The striker has gone on to feature 450 times for the Spanish giants, notching 211 goals while so often his role is not as clear as being a typical ‘number nine’.
Having never been blessed with lightning pace, he sacrifices himself to drop deep in order to draw defenders in, allowing the countless other stars he’s played alongside to exploit the spaces he creates. He does his bit for the team, usually the in the most selfless of ways. Superstar players he’s shared a dressing room with include the likes of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Gareth Bale and Mesut Ozil, just to name a few.
By inviting the defence onto him, Benzema is able to implement a facet of his game that is not only deemed unnecessary for a number nine, but often ignored in favour of a goal ratio surpassing one in two. What Benzema can do, is pass. His vision is under-appreciated for a striker of his size and build, as he can thread a pass Diego Maradona wouldn’t hesitate to put his name to.
When not making a lung-bursting surge into the opponent’s penalty area, he will shield the ball and attract opponents like flies to honey, allowing him to feed the ball to wide players that, for much of his career, had been Ronaldo and Bale. It may not be the killer final pass he supplies, but Andres Iniesta only amassed eight assists in his last four years at Barcelona, and we all know how good he was.
Trying to make a name for yourself in a Madrid team that, quite frankly, for nine years could have been known as Real Ronaldo CF, is no easy feat. Yet, Benzema plugged away, balancing his role of playing striker, while equally not, and dropping deeper to connect the dots in an attack that has accumulated such an astonishing number of goals. It’s humble football at it’s finest.
Notably throughout his Los Blancos career, Benzema has outlived so many other strikers, that it’s become a large component of his ability that has been overlooked by critics and supporters alike. When he first donned the famous white of Madrid he found himself in a squad blessed with the likes of Raul and Gonzalo Higuain in a side that rarely strayed away from pitting one striker up front.
Nonetheless, he’s remained a key figure in an ever-changing environment with no less than seven managers keeping faith in the Frenchman’s unquestionable abilities.
Certainly, it hasn’t all been roses for the ex-Lyon man. He’s suffered dips in form that have left even the most staunch fans question his goal-scoring rates, particularly in the last two seasons. The 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns culminated in, by his standards, a meagre 31 goals in 98 outings, yet he still finished by lifting the trophy with the big ears on both occasions.
By managing to stay relevant and continuing to remain in the picture at the Bernabeu he deserves credit alone. In fact, following a supposed ‘dip’, he’s enjoying one of the more fruitful seasons of his career to date. Netting 19 goals in 38 appearances this term keeps him in the ‘one in two’ club that all statistics fanatics crave, as Madrid remain in the hunt for three pieces of silverware.
Furthermore, in case anyone had missed it, he’s now Real Madrid’s sixth all-time highest goal scorer and fourth highest in the history of the Champions League. So is Perez fair in his comments that Benzema is the best striker in the world? They always say back your man, which he has done, and it would be cruel not to at least mention the player amongst Europe’s finest frontmen, even if there are plenty of candidates who would argue otherwise.