Is Karim Benzema one of the most underrated players in the game?

When Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus in the summer of 2018, many expected the Spanish giants to spend a fortune to sign a superstar replacement to fill the void the Portuguese had left behind. When that didn’t happen, all eyes shifted to Karim Benzema and the French striker has not disappointed at all.

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were a lethal duo as they combined very well and ripped apart defences in La Liga and the Champions League with their pace, power, agility and finishing ability, but it was the latter who hogged the limelight. In fact, even Gareth Bale stole much of the headlines during his prime years in the Spanish capital. Undoubtedly, the selflessness of Benzema allowed Ronaldo, and to some extent Bale, to take the centre stage at Real Madrid.

When Ronaldo was scoring goals for fun in the famous White, Benzema’s numbers dropped in comparison. Having played with Ronaldo for nine seasons, Benzema could only manage 192 goals for Real during that period and managed to breach the 20-goal mark only on six occasions. Now that Ronaldo is no more a part of Real Madrid, Benzema has well and truly become their main man.

Yet, it is still baffling to see the Frenchman continually being disrespected when it comes to the strikers that have played in the same generation as him. Ever since becoming Real’s go-to man in 2018, the 35-year-old has netted 131 goals across the last four seasons. He has scored 20-plus goals in each of the last four seasons in La Liga, and currently is on 14 goals in 18 league appearances amidst an injury-hit campaign.

The 2021/22 season turned was incredible for Benzema where he scored a staggering 44 times in 46 games. He was one of the prime reasons for Real’s Champions League success, netting 15 goals in 12 appearances and producing many game-changing moments.

When Real were trailing 2-0 on aggregate against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes in the last-16 of the Champions League last season, it was Benzema who bailed Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The French striker stepped up and put away a superb hat-trick in the second half against PSG away, thus, defying all the odds that were stacked against Los Blancos’ qualification to the next round.

At 34 years and 80 days, Benzema became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League. Moreover, he is now second in Real Madrid’s all-time goalscoring charts with 348 strikes. Only Ronaldo (451) is now ahead of him and surpassing the Portuguese superstar would be some achievement for Benzema.

And for a richly successful last year with Real, which included leading the club to the La Liga and Champions League double, Benzema won the 2022 Ballon d’Or. Apart from his goals, what stands out for the 35-year-old are his significant playmaking ability, vision, dribbling ability and work ethic.

In modern football, strikers are not merely judged by their goals but by their all-round game. And Benzema isn’t just your traditional No.9; he can drop deep, link play, create chances and bring his teammates into the game. So, him being the player with the most assists in Real Madrid’s rich history shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In an era where traditional strikers such as Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero have received plaudits from all sections of the media, it is unfortunate to see Benzema being under-appreciated for all his achievements. Luckily, in spite of his underrated status as a footballer in the world, Benzema will surely go down as a Real Madrid great.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *