Both players were introduced at the Bernabéu in precisely the exact same week and while the Portuguese drew a crowd of around 90,000, a more modest 20,000 came into the French star’s demonstration.
He sacrificed his own game to assist the one-man brand that’s CR7 and make sure Los Blancos collected trophy after trophy.
“Cristiano and I get on well and I enjoy playing with him,” the striker told Canal Football Club at 2017. “He’s more egotistical than me but that is normal, it does not bother me. In the long run, it’s great for the group.”
Benzema, meanwhile, only struck over 20 LaLiga goals in two seasons while alongside the Portuguese.
“I am at a large club and a lot is expected of me,” he confessed in a meeting with AS at 2014. “I am a Real Madrid striker which means I have to score in each match. That is how it is.”
Yet it was not. Not truly. Benzema was a facilitator; a guy who made those around him better. It was a selfless role and one which was not always appreciated by the Real Madrid fans — he had been whistled and jeered in 2013, 2014 and 2017.
Real opted against paying large to replace their all-time high scorer.
Gareth Bale, partially down to injury, was not able to. Young Brazilian Vinícius Júnior dazzled when given a chance, but he was not expected to be successful in his debut effort.
The goalscoring burden, nearly ten years after he came, eventually fell at Benzema’s feet. He finished the 2018/19 campaign with his second-best reunite in a Real Madrid shirt: 30 goals in most competitions, of that 21 arrived in LaLiga.
And this term, at age 32 years old, he’s been the elite goalscorer many anticipated when he starred for Lyon all those years ago.
He’s struck ten goals in LaLiga, no one has more — in 12 matches. And these aren’t mere window dressing; they’re openers or winners. Benzema is your difference-maker.
That’s reflected in the record books, too. This season he’s become just the second player to score in 15 successive Champions League campaigns, the first was Lionel Messi. And in addition, he overtook legendary striker Alfredo di Stefano from the all time list of goalscorers in Europe for Los Blancos.
Just how as Benzema’s game changed from the post-Ronaldo era? Well, quite simply, he’s doing what a striker should.
When we look at his numbers out of 2017/18, the last effort he played alongside Ronaldo, Benzema was shooting 2.63 shots per 90, was switching just 0.21 significant Odds per 90, was finishing 19.24 passes in the last third per 90, and was helping a goal in open play 0.42 times per 90.
He was, as we understand, a founder first and goalscorer second.
This term, however, those numbers have reversed. He’s scoring 0.78 significant Chances per 90, again the second-most. He is playing fewer passes in the last third per 90 (17.67) and his open-play assists per 90 have dipped to 0.35.
It’s tough to shake the feeling that Benzema was always capable of this.
Naturally, his partnership with Ronaldo paid off, they won four Champions Leagues, two La Liga games, two Copa del Reys, three UEFA Super Cups, and four FIFA Club World Cups but he was not and couldn’t be the star together with the Portuguese.
That’s now changed. Eventually from the Bernabéu spotlight, Benzema has shown himself as a top man.