Only a few years ago, Karim Benzema was considered one of the best strikers in the world.
The French international has been forced to live under the shadows of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo during his entire career, but he still managed to stand out. He was scoring goals at will for Real Madrid, and had the privilege to be considered the starting forward in one of the best teams in the world.
Fast forward to 2017, and Benzema looks like a whole different player. That star forward who had unlimited resources to finish plays appears to be a shell of his former self, and he has been struggling badly in recent months. He began to have problems last season, but this year things have been even worst. Benzema left the pitch against FC Barcelona this Saturday under lots of scrutiny from the fans, and it seems Zinedine Zidane’s trust in him is the only reason that keeps him in the lineup. Or maybe it’s the lack of a potential replacement, as Madrid sold both Mariano Diaz and Alvaro Morata this past summer.
There’s no question Zizou must be regretting that decision. But let’s take a deeper look to see what is going on with Benzema, and if his current struggles have any solution going forward.
What are the reasons for his decline?
There could be many reasons for Benzema’s steady dip in form. It could be a physical aspect, although that’s hard to imagine since he is only 30 years old. Strikers tend to peak between 28 and 32 years of age, so Benzema is “technically” in his prime. But if we consider he lived some his best years a while ago, then maybe he was one of those cases that peak early and slowly decline through the rest of their careers. There have been many cases.
There could be a mental component as well. Benzema was linked with an extorsion case in the past, and he has been separated from the French National Football Team as a result. And based on France’s attacking options, it seems his tenure with Les Bleus is already over. That could have taken a toll on him as well.
Others could say Benzema is on a goal drought, but that is not the case. A goal drought can go for a long period of time, yes. Just ask Thomas Muller, who spent almost 1,000 minutes without scoring in the Bundesliga last season. But Benzema’s problems seem to be a bit deeper than that. He only has five goals and three assists in 20 games across all competitions. That’s quite bad for a player worth €60 million and “supposedly” hitting his prime.
What does the numbers say?
It only takes a quick look at Karim Benzema’s numbers to see his struggles are the real deal.
With five goals in 20 appearances this current term, the French has not lived up to the “world-class striker” expectations on his shoulder. But this is not something that has happened to him right now. These are his numbers from the past five seasons at Real Madrid:
- 2012/13: 12 goals in 30 Liga appearances, 21 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions
- 2013/14: 17 goals in 35 Liga appearances, 24 goals in 52 appearances across all competitions
- 2014/15: 15 goals in 29 Liga appearances, 22 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions
- 2015/16: 24 goals in 27 Liga appearances, 28 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions
- 2016/17: 11 goals in 29 Liga appearances, 19 goals in 48 appearances across all competitions
Aside from the 2015/16 season where he averaged 0,77 goals per game, he failed to average 0,5 goals per game in the other four. That’s not good enough if you’re the starting striker of Real Madrid playing alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Isco, among others.
Could Real Madrid replace him?
Yes. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Benzema has reached a point where he became replaceable. And there are several options Los Blancos could consider if they choose to part ways with the former Lyon star.
For instance, they could take a look at Harry Kane from Tottenham. Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) have been linked with a move to Santiago Bernabeu. Even the likes of Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund) could find themselves as Madrid targets going forward, as it’s happening right now with Mohamed Salah.
The options are there, but Madrid must pull the trigger and decide what they will do with Benzema. Because right now, the French is not performing as expected. And Los Blancos need him on his best form if they want to keep their title chances alive. It’s either him, or somebody else at this point. But if he can’t leave his struggles behind, then Madrid must look at alternatives.
It’s tough, but it’s the right thing to do.
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