Karim Benzema became a highly criticised figure two or three years ago. He wasn’t scoring often and was seemingly past his prime. Alongside players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema was beginning to look ordinary.
In the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 La Liga seasons combined, Benzema found the back of the net only 16 times. But he also racked up 15 assists. But in the Champions League, Benzema had scored five times in each season.
It can be argued that he wasn’t at his best. But the basis of those comparisons is Benzema’s impressive performances prior to the dip in form. Despite that, Real did win the UEFA Champions League on both occasions.
Throughout his time at the club, Benzema has never been just a goalscorer. He has always played at least 1 key-pass per game at Real, completing at least 0.5 dribbles per game too.
In Zinedine Zidane’s first spell, Benzema would play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and in front of Isco many times. His intelligent movement often helped Ronaldo score more goals than he would have without him. His unselfishness saw him give away his superstar status for the sake of others like Ronaldo.
And often, the goals that Benzema did score never got enough recognition. In the 2014-15 campaign, Benzema was involved in 25 goals in La Liga. In the 2015-16 season, it stood at 31. These are lofty numbers, but it was Ronaldo who would get the praise and hype.
It is natural in football and Ronaldo was instrumental too. But being the superstar he is, the Portuguese was always the centre of attention. When it was Benzema who made things tick by dropping deeper and allowing Ronaldo the room to play closer to goal.
Since Ronaldo’s exit though, Real haven’t been at their best. But this been working in Benzema’s favour. In the two seasons before Ronaldo left, Benzema was a divisive figure for not being as good as he was. But people are now finally paying attention.
Against Paris Saint-Germain recently, Benzema sparkled. It was a familiar shape for him. Isco played behind him and instead of Ronaldo, Eden Hazard played beside him in a 4-3-1-2 shape.
Benzema did score twice, But it was his 11th and 12th involvement in goals in the last seven games. This includes eight goals and four assists. In the game, Benzema had a passing percentage of 92 percent and played 55 passes. That is a very impressive number indeed.
Even against Real Sociedad recently, Benzema came up with an impressive showing. He completed one dribble, winning four aerial duels and playing two key-passes. That is very good for a striker and shows how complete he is.
It will also be fair to say that Benzema’s recent brilliant run is also down to Hazard finding form. It started in the game against Leganes, where Hazard was dazzling.
Recently, the former Chelsea man hailed Benzema as the best in the world. He told (via Marca):
“After having played with him for three or fourth months, I think that, right now, he’s the best striker in the world. But [also] away from his role as a striker, he makes others better.”
The Belgian completed seven dribbles, playing two key-passes. The performance gave the impression that the real Eden Hazard had well and truly turned up. He has kept going since then and it carried on last night too.
But the difference lies in how the attention has shifted to the Frenchman instead of Hazard. And at the age of 31, he is finally getting what he truly deserves. He will forever be one of the most underrated players of this generation.