The Financial Express

Once most-hated Real Madrid player is now the most loved one: Karim Benzema's spectacular transformation

| Updated: January 27, 2022 12:28:42

Photo: AS Photo: AS

Right now in Real Madrid, Karim Benzema is the most reliable name. He is the player who has been leading Real Madrid after the departure of Ronaldo. 

Although Real Madrid could not replicate their success in the previous seasons starting from the 2018/19 season, Benzema has cemented his place as the undisputed main man of the current squad.

But if we go a few years back, things were not the same. Benzema used to be considered to be the weakest link in the BBC trio consisting of Bale Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Madrid fans were extremely dissatisfied with him and many wanted his exit which was also fuelled by transfer rumours regarding Robert Lewandowski, especially during the 2017/18 season. 

But after 2/3 seasons, fans now want an ageing Benzema to stay at the club for 2/3 more seasons. How did this magic happen? Has he taken himself to another level in recent years? Or was he always this good but never this apparent to the fans due to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo? 

When Benzema went to Real Madrid from Lyon, he was already a prodigal talent. Afterwards, he gradually became regular at the team with Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. 

Later, he became an undisputed starter and a pivotal part of the team under Zinedine Zidane. Zidane, despite being extremely successful as a manager, was often criticised for favouring Benzema and not buying any recognised striker from the transfer market.

But after all these years, Zidane's decision seems to be right. Despite Benzema operating mostly as the striker in the 4-3-3 formation famously used by Zidane, he wasn’t just a striker. 

He used to be involved in the gameplay and most of the time, drifted to the left to give Cristiano Ronaldo space as he was Madrid's principal finisher back then and the whole game of the team revolved around him. Benzema himself admitted to this a few days ago.

Yet, his finishing was not up to the mark back then. It can largely be regarded that this problem was visible in him due to the fact that he had to largely play second fiddle to Ronaldo and didn’t have enough chances to take his finishing up to a higher level.

But after the departure of Ronaldo in 2018, Benzema became more multidimensional. He became more involved in the scoring. For the past 2 seasons, he has been scoring some spectacular goals, while not losing his previous instinctive playing style where he still is highly involved in pushing the ball forward as well as playmaking, almost something similar to that of a False 9.

He has also been brilliant for the France National Team. Where he has returned after 5 years, and in the process, has already won the UEFA Nations League while becoming one of the top three scorers and pulling France out of danger in a few nerve-wracking matches.

Karim Benzema was misunderstood and underappreciated in the past by Madrid fans as well as fans of the game. 

As he gets to showcase his talents more now, largely because of increased freedom and responsibility, everyone seems to be in awe of him.

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