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Carlo Ancelotti identifies the best strike partner for Cristiano Ronaldo

Carlo Ancelotti knows Cristiano Ronaldo inside and out. Who does he choose to partner the best player in the world?

What’s the Story

Former Real Madrid manager and current Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti has analysed Real Madrid and Juventus ahead of the Champions League final in a candid interview with Corriere della Sera. One of his major comments explained why Alvaro Morata was getting such little game time – 

“Morata plays so little under Zidane because Benzema is the best striker to play with Cristiano."

In case you didn’t know

Karim Benzema has come under fire this season (until his heroics against Atletico Madrid, at least) for having lacklustre form in front of goal, and more importantly,  for blocking the path into the first team for Alvaro Morata – who has been sensational when given a chance. 

The Frenchman has 18 goals in 46 games, 10 League goals to augment a Copa del Rey goal and 7 Champions League goals while the less favoured Morata has 20 in just 41 games, 15 coming in 25 League games to go along with 2 Copa goals and 3 Champions League ones. 

What is more astonishing is their minutes per goal ratio in the league – while Benzema’s 10 goals have come at 184 mins per goal (a little less than a goal every two games), Morata’s has come at an incredible 88 mins per goal (a little more than a goal every game) indicating just how well the Spaniard has grasped his chances with both hands

The heart of the matter

While Zinedine Zidane’s one and half year reign at Real Madrid has been a resounding success in terms of silverware won and records created, critics have nevertheless latched on to the manager’s supposed lack of tactical nous and his penchant to stick with the superstar names in the big games despite the lesser lights shining brighter. Many have suspected this tendency of playing Karim Benzema (and even Gareth Bale) ahead of the likes of Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez, Isco and Lucas Vazquez (all of whom have been in stunning form) to the pressure that Florentino Perez exerts while others believe it is the french connection that has enabled Benzema to keep his job but Carlo Ancelotti’s comments throw new light to the whole situation. 

Karim Benzema’s unselfish off the ball movement and tendency to drift wide onto the flanks in search of space is the exact quality that allows Ronaldo to cut inside and run in behind the central defenders – the moments during which his incredible goal-scoring ability gets sharply highlighted. Having played together since 2009, they also have a deep understanding of the other’s game and have tailor-made it to ensure they draw the best out of each other. 

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Author’s Take

Yes, Karim Benzema does miss an awful lot of chances. Yes, Karim Benzema does look like he’d rather be lounging onn his sofa rather than playing football a lot of the time. These things have always been held against the talented Frenchman, but I’ve always mantained that he is an exceptional big game player who turns in A-grade performances when his side really needs him to, especially toward the end of the season (exhibit A – that dribble against Godin, Savic and Jimenez)

His partnership with Ronaldo is also key to the Portuguese scoring a bucket-load of goals every season, and therefore instead of focusing on his individual faults, maybe it’s time we paid attention to the value Karim Benzema adds to the collective!

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