If Zinedine Zidane’s departure came as a surprise to Real Madrid fans, then it’s definitely fair to say Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to pack his bags and move to Turin came as a proper shock.
As Los Blancos prepared to head into the new season without two men who were directly responsible for three consecutive Champions League titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018, a question imposed itself:
Who would be the new leader of Real Madrid?
Filling up the void Portuguese superstar left behind was always going to be a difficult challenge and that’s one of the main reasons Real Madrid are given 12/1 betting odds to repeat the last year’s success at the international level.
Real Madrid supporters were quick to divert the attention to the club record signing, Gareth Bale. The Welshman has long lived in the shadows of Cristiano Ronaldo and it was widely expected that the £85 million superstar would finally live up to the highest of expectations. Yet, he failed.
The Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric was next. The diminutive Croatian maestro grabbed hold of the reins but it was another man who, by the end of January, stepped up the plate to become Real Madrid’s shining star.
Karim Benzema, who’d say.
Heavily criticized under Zinedine Zidane who, the supporters believed, was overly protected of his compatriot. The 31-year-old role at Real Madrid evolved in recent years. From the classic forward and the natural No.9 the Frenchman turned into a supporting act for Cristiano Ronaldo.
With only 5 La Liga goals next to his name last season, Karim Benzema hit the lowest low at Santiago Bernabeu and the supporters were calling for his head. The Frenchman seemed to be declining both in quality and form. Having found himself in a bad place – mentally – Benzema would go on to miss open-goal chances and often overdo his link-up play.
Benzema turned into a sideshow and many believed he was done and dusted. Have they been wrong or what?
Karim Benzema – Resurrected
The Frenchman did not have his final say, however. Having rediscovered his goalscoring touch, Karim Benzema has already exceeded his last season’s tally with nine to his name in the league. He went on to assist further two in La Liga, score three in six Champions League matches and two in three Copa Del Rey games. This brings his overall tally to 14 goals overall.
With his brace against Espanyol last time out, Benzema reached a 300-goal milestone. He scored 66 goals at Lyon, further 27 with the French national team and 207 at Real Madrid. He equaled the record of great Hugo Sanzhez and became the sixth-best goalscorer in Real Madrid’s history.
The numbers, however, do not paint an honest portrait of this year’s resurrected Karim Benzema.
It is the 4-2 demolition of Espanyol that best illustrates Karim Benzema’s greatness and importance for Real Madrid. Throughout the entire game, the Frenchman was the single outstanding figure on the pitch.
Benzema has successfully made five dribbles, made as many key passes and fired four shots on goal. The stylish appearance he put in was the most impressive element of his entire display, however. He ran wide and deep to collect balls and build the play. In simplest of terms possible, Benzema was the focal point of attacks – getting fully immersed into the same role Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed during his happy Real Madrid days.
Benzema demonstrated plenty of authority in leading the line which was the attribute manager Santiago Solari was full of admiration for after the game. Benzema’s teammates heaped praise as well with Vasquez calling him the best striker in the world.
His critics have gone silent and are now being given the opportunity to enjoy in a symphony of movement and style the newly-born Karim Benzema produces.
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