Karim Benzema’s future at Real Madrid has been the subject of intense speculation this week, and that has now been cleared up, following confirmation that the 35-year-old will end his time in the Spanish capital later this month.
Having joined as a 21-year-old back in 2009, Benzema went under the radar with Cristiano Ronaldo also joining Los Blancos during the same transfer window. The Frenchman quickly established himself, and although he typically could not keep up with Ronaldo’s goalscoring efforts, he was still a sensational player during those years.’
Alongside Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, “BBC” oversaw one of the most successful periods in Real Madrid’s history. They won three Champions League titles in a row between 2016 and 2018, while also being a force domestically against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
It wasn’t until Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in 2018 that Benzema started to get the plaudits he deserved. He also stepped up his game here too, as he had become the club’s main man following the Portuguese’s move to Juventus.
He scored 30 in 2018/19, before following that up with 27 in the 2019/20 season. Another 30 goals were scored in 2020/21, with Benzema also providing close to double digits for assists, emphasising the other aspects of his game.
Benzema had the finest season of his career last season. He notched 44 goals and 15 assists in 46 matches during 2021/22, while also helping Real Madrid secure a sensational treble of LaLiga, Champions League and Spanish Super Cup. His exploits also saw him win the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career, at the rip old age of 35.
Although he has been plagued by injuries this season, which is understandable given his age and the compact nature of 2022/23 because of the World Cup, he has still been prolific. He has scored 30 goals in 42 matches, as Real Madrid secured another trio of trophies (European Super Cup, Club World Cup and Copa del Rey). This took him to 25 major honours won, level with former teammate Marcelo as the club’s most decorated player of all time.
While Benzema’s numbers are outstanding, and he will hope to add to them on Sunday when Real Madrid host Athletic Club in their final match of the season, his impact has been remarkable, and continues to go under the radar.
It is no surprise that Real Madrid have done so well since he joined in 2009. Although Ronaldo and Bale got most of the plaudits, Benzema was a vital cog in that machine, and they would not have been as successful without him. He had been labelled as more of a “provider”, especially for Ronaldo, but he has made his own name, and deservedly so.
Of all the players that have left Real Madrid at the end of their careers over the past few seasons, very little have had the impact that Benzema has, and he will be a huge miss for Carlo Ancelotti and Florentino Perez.
The task for Real Madrid will now be to replace him, but even with some of the best players in world football around them, there’s no guarantee that Benzema’s replacement will live up to the standard that he has set over the last 14 years.