Real Madrid fan Tom Wilde looks back at French striker Karim Benzema’s excellent season with the Spanish Champions. Benzema will spearhead the French attack this summer and he seems to be in the best form of his career.
Out-with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema has been Real Madrid‘s standout player this season. The transformation in the young Frenchman’s fortunes over the previous season have been tremendous and he has earned his first team spot for the Spanish champions.
It was only 18 months ago though, that Karim Benzema was publicly criticised by Jose Mourinho. When it was revealed in December 2010 that Gonzalo Higuain would have to go under the knife for a back injury he had suffered. Mourinho now only had one striker at his disposal and was less than pleased at the prospect, comparing having Benzema in your team with hunting with a cat, instead of a pack of dogs.
Benzema responded towards the end of the season. Scoring goals in games against Atletico, Sevilla, Valencia and in both legs of the Champions League against former club Lyon. While this was a vast improvement on the nine goals he had scored in his first season, it still wasn’t the 30 million euro signing that many had expected. This was soon to change though.
Over last Summer Benzema took the advice of both Jose Mourinho and French national coach, Laurent Blanc and improved his diet and attitude. The cat came back from his Summer holiday’s hungrier than ever. The Benzema that was now playing looked leaner, faster and more determined. Throughout the course of the season he and Higuain fought tooth and nail for the strikers spot in Mourinho’s team.
Each player is more than worthy, and they both showed this week in week out as the manager interchanged the pair regularly. However Mourinho tended to stick with Benzema more often as he felt he was better for breaking down the more gritty and defensive teams than his more direct and more devastating Argentine counterpart. While Higuain’s strike rate is second to none, including Messi and Ronaldo; Benzema’s performances were impressing Mourinho more
His stand-out displays against Barcelona in Camp Nou twice this season showed not just his goalscoring talents but his pressing abilities, his capability to hold up play with his strength and his fantastic decision making skills. The league victory away at Barcelona was the game that killed the title race and Benzema was absolutely outstanding.
Benzema scored important goals in the league, cup and Champions League as Real Madrid went on to win their 32nd league title after three years watching Barcelona take the title. Benzema has gone from an unimpressive cat to a roaring lion. One that has been instrumental this season for Real Madrid. He will no doubt be a key figure for the French national team going into Euro 2012 in a few weeks time too.
Over the course of the season the remarkable trident of Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain have broken the record for the most number of goals for three players, 118, surpassing Messi, Eto’o and Henry’s 2009 record of 100 goals.
Benzema’s personal goal tally was 32, his best ever return in a season. Add that to his 15 assists for the campaign and it is clear that Real Madrid finally have the player they signed from Lyon three seasons ago.