Opinion – The World is a Ball: Without the shadow of CR7, Benzema grows up and now enjoys a better phase at Real

Opinion – The World is a Ball: Without the shadow of CR7, Benzema grows up and now enjoys a better phase at Real

To shine in a team that counts on Cristiano Ronaldo is very difficult.

Anyone who plays together with the Portuguese, one of the best footballers in history, and also a personalist and hungry, is sure that he will be a supporting player.

Karim Benzema, who today lives in the glory of having eliminated Messi-Neymar-Mbappé’s Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, knows this very well.

The French striker joined Real Madrid in 2009. He was 21 years old and a star at Lyon.

Along with him, CR7 arrived at the merengue team, three years older and once elected best in the world by Manchester United.

As much as Benzema played well, and he did, he never had the ability (or was it the opportunity?) to score as many goals as the Portuguese.

In the period when they entered the field together, the Frenchman was always in the shadow of his colleague, as well as everyone on the team.

Benzema, in these nine seasons, scored 192 goals in 412 matches for prominent competitions (Champions League, Club World Cup, Spanish Championship, Copa del Rey, European Supercup and Spanish Supercup). A respectable average of 0.47 goals per game.

It seemed acceptable, going beyond would not be possible for him.

However, since the departure of CR7, who went to play in Italy for Juventus and then returned to Manchester United, Benzema has boosted his football and the balls in rival networks.

Without a teammate to compete with him for the spotlight in the attack – the Welshman Gareth Bale and the Belgian Eden Hazard lived with consecutive injuries –, the shirt 9 became the biggest idol of the famous Spanish club.

He accumulates, in four incomplete seasons (the current one runs until May), 117 goals in 180 matches, for the same tournaments already mentioned. The average per game jumped almost 40% to 0.65.

In the Champions League, the hat-trick (three goals) he scored against PSG this Wednesday (9) at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium raised his average goals in the championship, in the post-CR7 era, to 0.67 per game.

In absolute numbers, there are eight goals in the Champions League, which leave him third on the scorers table, in pursuit of Haller (Ajax, 11) and Lewandowski (Bayern, 12).

On the other hand, Benzema is on his way to conquering the Pichichi Trophy for the first time, given to Espanyol’s top scorer.

He has 20 goals in 24 games, and the closest pursuers (Vinicius Jr., Real’s teammate, the Spaniards Iago Aspas and Raúl de Tomás, and the Turkish Ünal) have 13.

His task is made easier by the absence of Messi – who has won Pichichi eight times since 2009/10 –, who left Barcelona for PSG to become the victim of the best Benzema.

Yes, this is the best Benzema.

Considering only 2021/22, he has been on the field 33 times, for Espanyol, Spanish Super Cup and Champions League. He scored 30 goals, almost one per presentation (average of 0.9).

In the Champions League, there are eight goals in seven matches.

And the best Benzema is even better for not feeling the weight of age.

At 34 years and 80 days old, in the historic match in which he formidably overshadowed people much more praised than him, Benzema became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in a Champions League clash.

The previous record holder was his compatriot Olivier Giroud, now at Milan, who scored three goals in Sevilla 0 x 4 Chelsea, in December 2020, aged 34 years and 63 days.

Cristiano Ronaldo was 34 years and 35 days old when he recorded his eighth and most recent Champions League hat-trick in March 2019 at Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid.

Messi, who like CR7 has eight hat-tricks in the Champions League – both are the record holders –, scored his last in Barcelona 4-0 PSV Eindhoven, in September 2019, aged 31 years, two months and 25 days.

For consecration, however, it is not enough for Benzema to be the best Benzema, in individual terms. He needs to win the Champions League, and there are still three stages to go.

After all, when Cristiano Ronaldo was the man on the team, Real Madrid won the cup four times (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Then no more.

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