Cover Story

Staying Power

If getting to the top is one thing, remaining there is quite another – not least in the rarefied air of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. For Karim Benzema, durability is just one hallmark of a career that’s full of milestones and promises more. The 32-year-old is closing in on third spot on the list of the Champions League’s all-time leading scorers and recently passed 100 games in the competition – as good an excuse as any to sit down and discuss his time at the top of the European game

WORDS Graham Hunter & Louis Laffitte | PHOTOGRAPHT Alex Caparros

The hard fact is that even throughout his glittering, enduring, enviable career with Real Madrid, it has emerged that many neither fully understand nor appreciate the intricacy and intelligence of Benzema’s football. The modern game has increasingly become a nirvana for statisticians, number crunchers. Important information, yes, but it’s a trend that can distract from wit, on-pitch savvy, generosity of work ethic and the players who perform not to shine personally but to win. That’s rare.

Benzema is all of those things – and more. Victory comes first, second and third for him. Personal glory? He thinks it’s overrated. If he can create a goal, craftily drag an opposition defender into a space he shouldn’t really be occupying or serve up a goal for anyone else in a Real Madrid shirt, he’s just as happy as when he scores.

“When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself enormously,” he says. “In the past few years I’ve scored quite a few goals and I’ve got quite a few assists, so that’s good. That’s what I enjoy most in football: doing what I do best on the pitch to help my team win. I love my team.

Today, when I look back on what I've achieved, I'm proud of this journey of mine
By

"At any rate, I work hard. Physically, I feel really good, I feel in shape. I’m often in the gym. You can never know whether you’re at the best point in your career because you’re always seeking perfection. For me, anyway, that’s what I look for in my performances. I’ve reached a very, very high level but I still want to seek more because I’ve got the chance to. I can go higher still.”

He accepts that selflessness can sometimes go unappreciated. That many modern fans often look only at the scorer and the result. But Benzema’s steadfast determination to be the fluid player who makes the team function better is unshakeable. As is his self-knowledge of why he’s been so durable – why Madrid remain keen for his Bernabéu career to be extended.

“Well, I’d say that it’s the ‘unseen work’. It’s called ‘unseen work’ and it describes all those things, both on and off the pitch, which draw little attention. Whether that be resting, working or eating well. On the pitch, everyone has their own qualities, their own talent. Everyone works differently but I’d say that, off the pitch, you can still work on your game.”

Read the full story
This is an extract from an article in issue
03
of Champions Journal. Get your copy to read the full story.
Get your copy
Cover Story

Staying Power

If getting to the top is one thing, remaining there is quite another – not least in the rarefied air of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. For Karim Benzema, durability is just one hallmark of a career that’s full of milestones and promises more. The 32-year-old is closing in on third spot on the list of the Champions League’s all-time leading scorers and recently passed 100 games in the competition – as good an excuse as any to sit down and discuss his time at the top of the European game

WORDS Graham Hunter & Louis Laffitte | PHOTOGRAPHT Alex Caparros

The hard fact is that even throughout his glittering, enduring, enviable career with Real Madrid, it has emerged that many neither fully understand nor appreciate the intricacy and intelligence of Benzema’s football. The modern game has increasingly become a nirvana for statisticians, number crunchers. Important information, yes, but it’s a trend that can distract from wit, on-pitch savvy, generosity of work ethic and the players who perform not to shine personally but to win. That’s rare.

Benzema is all of those things – and more. Victory comes first, second and third for him. Personal glory? He thinks it’s overrated. If he can create a goal, craftily drag an opposition defender into a space he shouldn’t really be occupying or serve up a goal for anyone else in a Real Madrid shirt, he’s just as happy as when he scores.

“When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself enormously,” he says. “In the past few years I’ve scored quite a few goals and I’ve got quite a few assists, so that’s good. That’s what I enjoy most in football: doing what I do best on the pitch to help my team win. I love my team.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!
Today, when I look back on what I've achieved, I'm proud of this journey of mine
By

"At any rate, I work hard. Physically, I feel really good, I feel in shape. I’m often in the gym. You can never know whether you’re at the best point in your career because you’re always seeking perfection. For me, anyway, that’s what I look for in my performances. I’ve reached a very, very high level but I still want to seek more because I’ve got the chance to. I can go higher still.”

He accepts that selflessness can sometimes go unappreciated. That many modern fans often look only at the scorer and the result. But Benzema’s steadfast determination to be the fluid player who makes the team function better is unshakeable. As is his self-knowledge of why he’s been so durable – why Madrid remain keen for his Bernabéu career to be extended.

“Well, I’d say that it’s the ‘unseen work’. It’s called ‘unseen work’ and it describes all those things, both on and off the pitch, which draw little attention. Whether that be resting, working or eating well. On the pitch, everyone has their own qualities, their own talent. Everyone works differently but I’d say that, off the pitch, you can still work on your game.”

Cover Story

Staying Power

If getting to the top is one thing, remaining there is quite another – not least in the rarefied air of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. For Karim Benzema, durability is just one hallmark of a career that’s full of milestones and promises more. The 32-year-old is closing in on third spot on the list of the Champions League’s all-time leading scorers and recently passed 100 games in the competition – as good an excuse as any to sit down and discuss his time at the top of the European game

WORDS Graham Hunter & Louis Laffitte | PHOTOGRAPHT Alex Caparros

The hard fact is that even throughout his glittering, enduring, enviable career with Real Madrid, it has emerged that many neither fully understand nor appreciate the intricacy and intelligence of Benzema’s football. The modern game has increasingly become a nirvana for statisticians, number crunchers. Important information, yes, but it’s a trend that can distract from wit, on-pitch savvy, generosity of work ethic and the players who perform not to shine personally but to win. That’s rare.

Benzema is all of those things – and more. Victory comes first, second and third for him. Personal glory? He thinks it’s overrated. If he can create a goal, craftily drag an opposition defender into a space he shouldn’t really be occupying or serve up a goal for anyone else in a Real Madrid shirt, he’s just as happy as when he scores.

“When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself enormously,” he says. “In the past few years I’ve scored quite a few goals and I’ve got quite a few assists, so that’s good. That’s what I enjoy most in football: doing what I do best on the pitch to help my team win. I love my team.

Today, when I look back on what I've achieved, I'm proud of this journey of mine
By

"At any rate, I work hard. Physically, I feel really good, I feel in shape. I’m often in the gym. You can never know whether you’re at the best point in your career because you’re always seeking perfection. For me, anyway, that’s what I look for in my performances. I’ve reached a very, very high level but I still want to seek more because I’ve got the chance to. I can go higher still.”

He accepts that selflessness can sometimes go unappreciated. That many modern fans often look only at the scorer and the result. But Benzema’s steadfast determination to be the fluid player who makes the team function better is unshakeable. As is his self-knowledge of why he’s been so durable – why Madrid remain keen for his Bernabéu career to be extended.

“Well, I’d say that it’s the ‘unseen work’. It’s called ‘unseen work’ and it describes all those things, both on and off the pitch, which draw little attention. Whether that be resting, working or eating well. On the pitch, everyone has their own qualities, their own talent. Everyone works differently but I’d say that, off the pitch, you can still work on your game.”

To access this article, as well as all CJ+ content and competitions, you will need a subscription to Champions Journal.
Already a subscriber? Sign in
close
It's your time to decide
Choose which classic final goal you would like to see in Issue 03 of Champions Journal.