His final will not be remembered, but his 2021-2022 Champions League campaign will go down as one of the most successful on an individual level. By coming with Real Madrid at the end of Liverpool on Saturday evening at the Stade de France (1-0 victory), Karim Benzema adds a fifth Champions League to his already imposing trophy cabinet. With now thirty titles on the clock, the striker trained in Lyon has one of the most extensive records in French football. But precisely, in the Pantheon of the Blues, in the middle of Raymond Kopa, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini or Thierry Henry, where to locate Karim Benzema?
It was thought that the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 from Real Madrid was going to represent a certain difficulty for him. Often presented as a complete attacker who knows how to create and pass but not necessarily a scorer-killer in the box, Karim Benzema has been able to reinvent himself so as not to be in the shadow of the big boys. For four years and the departure of the Portuguese, he has always exceeded twenty goals in La Liga. This season is even the best for him from a statistical point of view: 27 achievements in the Spanish league, but also 15 on the continental scene. “I became the 9 I wanted to be,” the Madrid striker told L’Équipe at the start of the year. A goalscorer with a collective sense much more pronounced than the other strikers of his era, as José Mourinho, his former coach, said, “probably the only number 9 who is not individualistic”.
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If we have seen players aging better and better like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this new dimension of Benzema is illustrated by his performance in the Champions League. Decisive against PSG and Chelsea with two hat-tricks, he also participated in the qualification for the final against Manchester City, embodying this Real Madrid that never gives up. A decisive campaign that now opens the doors to the most prestigious individual awards. “Finishing top scorer in the Champions League is exceptional, said the Madrid player at the microphone of Canal. But for me the most important thing is to win a fifth Champions League. If the Ballon d’Or is in the back of my mind? Inevitably, I finished the season, now I will go to selection. But I think that in club, I cannot do better. Now we’ll see what happens, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. »
On October 17, Karim Benzema can become the fifth French player to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or after Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini, Jean-Pierre Papin and Zinedine Zidane. If this necessarily represents a great accomplishment, we cannot help but project ourselves, especially a month later with the World Cup in Qatar. To surpass his illustrious elders, the striker with 94 appearances for the France team needs this trophy in selection to close the debates. Even if the Nations League won in 2021 is a nice reward, it does not equal the flavor of a Euro or a World Cup.