12 April 2022 - Real Madrid

Benzema's golden touch

Real Madrid
Louis Holas

Fan reporter Louis Holas sings the praises of a striker back at the top of his game

While living in Madrid in 2018, I had the opportunity to watch Real Madrid live almost every week. During the 2017/18 season, Karim Benzema, devoid of confidence, only scored 5 league goals. Despite pleas from team-mates, he was regularly whistled by sections of the Bernabéu. Though his season was redeemed by goals in the latter stages of the Champions League, few expected him to be Real’s main goalscorer after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. Four years on and Benzema is Madrid’s undisputed talisman. In the form of his life, he is a genuine contender for this year's Ballon d’Or. It’s been an astonishing turnaround.

Benzema was never unpopular with Madrid fans, but he was inconsistent. Playing in a front three with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, his work rate meant that he became structurally integral, rather than the go-to striker. He still provided jaw-dropping moments, his run against Atlético in the 2017 semi-final arguably being the standout, but he became easy to overlook, mainly due to Ronaldo’s relentless consistency. Now at the forefront of Madrid’s attack, Benzema is relishing the freedom he is now afforded. He is a crucial link between the midfield and the attack, dropping deep and bringing others into the game. His importance is perhaps best demonstrated when he doesn't play, as Madrid struggle without the creativity that he brings.

Karim Benzema dances through the Atlético Madrid defence in 2017.

Few Madridistas would have called Benzema a club legend in 2018, but now it is unquestionable. He will soon overtake Raúl González as Madrid’s second all-time top scorer, leaving only Ronaldo ahead of him. Yet he is so much more than just statistics. In London he demonstrated his ruthless finishing and his excellent anticipation. His silky back-heel to Federico Valverde showed his poise and skill, as well as his ability to create space for others to run past him. Benzema has gone from a sidekick to the complete striker.

After Tuesday’s crazy game, it would be remiss of me not to mention Luka Modrić’s outrageous assist and Rodrygo’s vital goal, but Benzema just had to have the final say. He didn’t have much of the ball or many chances, but once again he delivered at the crucial moment. The chants of ‘Karim balon de Oro” (Karim Ballon d’Or) have been a regular occurrence this season, but with each performance they keep getting louder. He’s had to be patient, but Benzema is finally getting the acclaim he deserves.

Our Champions Journalist fan reporter:
Louis Holas
About Champions Journalist fan reporters: These blogs have been written by winners of our annual Champions Journalist competition as well as a selection of editors from various fan page accounts. Together they offer their unique insights from the group stages all the way to the final.
Champions Journalist
With thanks to our Champions Journalist winner
Louis Holas
Champions Journalist is an annual competition that gives fans a chance to write about their club for Champions Journal.