Karim Benzema: Player Profile – Real Madrid 2018-19
Real Madrid might have lost their previous game against Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu but it doesn’t take away the fact that Santiago Solari’s side are playing better right now than they have been at the beginning of the season.
One of the biggest reasons for the Galacticos’ upturn in form is Karim Benzema. The Frenchman has been absolutely astonishing for his side so far this year as he is leading the attack from the front.
Player Profile (Current Season)
Name: Karim Benzema
Positions played: Striker, false 9, attacking midfielder, left-wing
History at the club
Real Madrid signed Karim over a decade ago in the summer of 2009 for €35 million plus €6 million in incentives. A lot was expected from him from the word go as he was among the most coveted young strikers in Europe at the time.
However, his start at the club was very poor as he ended up with just 9 goals in his first season. Jose Mourinho was brought in after and the Portuguese preferred Gonzalo Higuain over him.
When the Argentine was unfit, Mourinho clearly wasn’t happy with having only Benzema as the fit striker, likening the Frenchman as ineffective as a cat when compared to a dog while hunting.
Everything, however, changed when he scored a beautiful solo goal against Sevilla in the first leg of the semi-finals of the 2010-11 Copa Del Rey. It was the only goal of the game and it changed the complexion of his career with Los Blancos.
After that, his form started to pick up and Jose Mourinho began to trust him more and more. He ended that season with 26 goals from 48 games and even bettered it in the following season.
He scored 32 goals in Mourinho’s second – and his third- season from just 52 games. To date, that was his best season with the Galacticos.
His journey with the Blancos hasn’t entirely been rosy as his form continued to be erratic in the seasons after that. However, even then, managers kept faith in him as his understanding of the game was very crucial for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Benzema’s selflessness allowed Ronaldo to shine at his best and after the departure of the Portuguese, he seems to be taking more of the responsibility in the attack. Right now, the Frenchman has 211 goals from 451 matches for the Galacticos
The former Lyon star is mainly used as a striker but has also often played as a false 9 or in attacking midfield. He has also drifted to the left-wing at times and is actually more fluid in his role than ever before.
More than scoring, the real strength of the Frenchman lies in his ability to link with his team-mates. He is often seen dropping very deep and has a hand in building up the play.
This season, especially, he has been more of a false 9 as drops in the midfield or hovers over to the wings to link up with his team-mates. His chemistry with young Vinicius Jr. has also given him the freedom to play more expressively.
Ronaldo’s departure from the Santiago Bernabeu meant that the Frenchman had to take more responsibility for the scoring than ever before. In that, he has quite good, to say the least.
He might not be breaking the ground like the Portuguese used to but so far this season, Benzema has perhaps been the most consistent player for his team. The Frenchman can now play with more freedom as he doesn’t have to assist anyone anymore.
In fact, youngster Vinicius is playing the role of the provider for the Frenchman, much like how he used to for Ronaldo. As a result of this, Benzema finds himself more in scoring positions than ever before.
He has already scored 19 goals this season from 39 games and while this might not be the level of return of Ronaldo, he is still done a good job. Almost every play in the attacking third this season passes through the former Lyon starlet.
It is not a coincidence that Real Madrid lost the match to Girona when the Frenchman wasn’t having the best of games.
A lot of Real Madrid’s hope of lies on his shoulders as the fans are finally acknowledging the genius of Karim Benzema.
The Frenchman has a contract until 2021 with Real Madrid and there is a good chance that he is offered a new one that would take him well into his mid-30s at Real Madrid.
If he continues his current form and helps Madrid win some title, he is almost guaranteed to earn a rise in pay as Florentino Perez is a big fan of the number 9
In the future
When a striker crosses 30, the general consensus is that he is reaching his twilight years. However, for Benzema, this might not be the case as he has never been an out-and-out striker.
The Frenchman is more of a midfielder embodied in a striker and there is a good chance that he finishes his career in midfield, prolonging his peak years. Real Madrid fans saw a bit of that against Girona when Mariano Diaz was brought on for Dani Ceballos and Benzema was dropped to form the midfield three.
It might have been for only a few minutes but Benzema looked comfortable in that role. However, he needs more defensive discipline if he is to be handed that role somewhere down the line.
But even then, with the way he has been playing this season, there is a good chance that he gets a contract for life with the Galacticos and a chance to finish his career here.