The underrated genius that is Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema is one of the most underrated footballers in world football at the moment. We take a look as to why...
Karim Mostafa Benzema arrived at Real Madrid from Lyon in the summer of 2009 for a fee of €41 million. Karim Benzema's transfer was overshadowed by the purchase of bigger players like Ronaldo and Kaka by the capital club in the same summer - and for record-breaking fees.
And as destiny would have it, Karim Benzema's contribution to the success of Real Madrid has also often been overshadowed by his Portuguese teammate's performances during his time at Madrid - just like his transfer.
Since his arrival, Benzema has enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the Madrid fan base. While some acknowledge the talent he possesses, some just write him off as a nobody. But, the truth is, you need to be special to spend 8 years at a club like Real Madrid - where the standards demanded are almost inhuman.
Benzema is not the traditional striker
A lot of work Benzema does for Real Madrid goes unnoticed. He is a striker, but not a traditional one. When people think about a striker, they build a picture of someone who scores lots of goals, but Benzema is not a striker who does that. He is different; his ability to create chances and link up play is what makes him unique among the other strikers.
Karim Benzema is not just a goalscorer, he is a player who is much more involved in the build-up play. The Frenchman serves as a perfect way to connect the midfield and the attack as he serves as a link which connects the various dots in attack.
He may not be the most lethal finisher around, but he makes up for what he lacks with his eye for the right pass, movement off the ball and linking up play.
He shifts to the wings and helps create through the flanks, he drops back deep and helps the buildup play - the number 9's movement helps bring other players into play. The kind of football that Madrid play, the Frenchman is the perfect foil for the number 9 role.
He isn't a pure number 9 since some label him as more of a number 9.5 and is arguably the best player you can have in the role of the supporting forward.
Karim Benzema, though, has a very languid style of play; he makes football look easy when he is playing well. However, when he doesn't, he can be frustrating to watch as you almost feel as if he doesn't care.
He has often been criticized for being lazy or not being consistent enough - and, at times, it has really been a problem for him.
Does he deserve the flak he receives?
He is more than capable of producing moments of sheer brilliance that showcase his world-class individual qualities. Remember him getting past 3 Atletico Madrid defenders in the UEFA Champions League semi-final and help set up a goal? Or his bicycle kick against Ajax? Or his brilliant solo goal against Sevilla in the 2011 edition of the La Liga?
He has done some outrageous things on the pitch, but he is a player who is willing to sacrifice his individual glory for the team's benefit.
After a difficult start to his career at Real Madrid, he has settled into his life and role at Real Madrid. He had a difficult first season at the club, but showed drastic improvement by the end of the second season. However, it was in the 2011-12 season where he came of age and became the numero uno in his position in the club.
Scoring 32 goals and assisting 19 more, he played a very crucial role in Jose Mourinho's team that season. Ever since then, he has played a very crucial role for Real Madrid and while he has been guilty at times of not being consistent enough, he has shown how important a player he is for Real Madrid time and time again.
His contributions have been often overshadowed by those around him. When you have someone like Ronaldo around, you are bound to fall under his burgeoning shadow. However, that doesn't make Benzema any less important to Real Madrid.
He has often been under pressure from fans, especially in the 2016-17 season, for his lack of goals as Morata was scoring almost whenever he got a chance. However, Benzema helps Real Madrid in more ways than Morata could.
Zidane understands Benzema provides more than just goals to Madrid, he is a player who helps in making things work in the final third for Madrid - which, at times, can get unnoticed if you don't score or assist as much as a traditional striker does.
It is for this reason that, in his time with Madrid, Benzema has often been a target of criticism for the club's fans. His coaches, however, have always known the worth of having him in the squad.
Karim Benzema is the fourth-longest serving player at the Bernabeu - and that says a lot about him.