Karim Benzema - Great or Good?

Karim Benzema has had a storied career. The French striker has spent 11 seasons with Real Madrid, arguably the world's most reputable club. He has been named the club's player of the year on three separate occasions, won four Champions League titles, two La Liga titles, twice won the Spanish Cup and Spanish Super Cup, won the Club World Cup four times and three UEFA Super Cups to boot. This brings me to the question - after such a prestigious spell, why is Benzema not mentioned in the conversation when talking about the greatest strikers of our era? 

Karim Benzema after winning the Champions League for a fourth time.
Picture: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

The Early Years

The answer to this question will divide opinion wherever you go, particularly in Madrid where the view seems to change on a seasonal basis. The 31 year old, soon to be 32, is reaching the end of his career one would think. It is hard to picture Benzema as a young, emerging 21 year old as he was when joining Real in the summer of 2009. He had played 29 times for his country and won nine domestic trophies in the previous four seasons with Lyon before his move to Spain. The fee at the time was around €35 million rising to €41 million. Taking into account his success to date, I'd say that fee had risen to €41 million many seasons ago.

Benzema was part of the French side that crashed out of Euro 2008 at the group stage the previous summer before his move. His nation collected a point from three games in a group containing Italy and the Netherlands. Karim started two of those games, failing to appear in a 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands. After three seasons finding his feet and his way into the all conquering Lyon side of the time, yes there was another time before PSG took over, he finished the 2007/08 season with 25 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. This impressive return averaged a goal involvement just under every 97 minutes. In total, he left the all dominant French giants with his whole career ahead of him, with 66 goals to contribute to his team's success. 

Benzema celebrating a goal while at Lyon
Picture: telegraph.co.uk

International Duty

Before getting into the trophy laden Real Madrid years, the most chequered part of Benzema's career is with his national side. The Lyon born striker has 82 caps and 27 goals for his country, but that only tells less than half the story. He was left out of the 2010 World Cup squad due to a hit and miss first season in Spain. There was of course the scandal in the Munich hotel which involved a few of his France team mates, who went on to make the squad. Benzema, however, went on to become a regular in the side under new manager Laurent Blanc scoring in friendly internationals against England and Brazil. He netted a brace against Ukraine at Euro 2012. During this time he was twice named French footballer of the year. With his stock continuing to rise, the 2014 World Cup seen Benzema score three goals as France reached the quarter final. He also impressed from a left wing role in the group stage against Switzerland. His role with France was done and dusted after he was questioned by police for an alleged blackmail against team mate Mathieu Valbuena. This story rocked French football and created a split between the French Football Federation and Benzema from which they have never recovered. The story continues up to this day with the player requesting a chance to represent another national side and the FFF declaring his international future over. 

Goals, Assists and more Goals

Moving back to the positives at current club Real Madrid, Benzema has been part of a largely successful Real Madrid side, playing with some of the finest footballers we have ever seen. Despite some up and down seasons he has been a key figure in the success. Players have come and gone, but Benzema has been a constant in his time at the club, more often than not chipping in with assists to add to his goals. His numbers are impressive, he is about to breach the 300 goal mark in his club career with well over 200 for Madrid. This is added to over 100 assists. It will be sooner rather than later when he surpasses 500 games and edges closer to the top ten on the list of record appearances for Real Madrid. Another impressive stat is Benzema has only failed to hit double figures in two La Liga seasons since his arrival. This included hitting double figures in both goals and assists in four consecutive seasons. At time of writing he also stands fourth on the all time list of Champions League goal scorers, racking up a half century for Real Madrid alone. 

Predominately a centre forward with a keen eye for goal, is Benzema one of the best? He has impressed in a handful of games out wide down the years but strikers are more often than not judged on goals. Although many other strikers, Roberto Firmino I am looking at you, offer more than goals this is the most impressive part of Karim Benzema's game. Has his actions with the French national team cost him his legacy? Has he been made to look good in a world class Real Madrid side over the years? Or does Benzema deserve to be in the conversation when talking about great strikers? 

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo
Picture: football.fr

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