Karim Benzema arrived at Real Madrid in 2009 with the poster of young promise hanging around his neck. At that time, he was only 21 years old, and it was only an attractive bet that was a little overshadowed by the rest of the signings that the Spanish team made that summer. Already consolidated players with golden balls in their showcases such as Cristiano and Kaka.
Real Madrid had changed its president, and Florentino Pérez was returning as the club’s manager after a very controversial first stage. He wanted to enter through the big door and he made a first millionaire disbursement that occupied the front pages of newspapers all over the world. From that moment on, the white team has followed a striking transfer policy, in which they combined the purchase of players with a name, already considered a star, with others much younger who had good prospects for the future, but who were always a kind of bet with their eyes closed. With these signings, there is never the certainty that being so young they will be able to adapt to a club with such a demanding level and that is always in the focus of the press.
Many times, both in sports and in life, impatience takes over us and we want to see instant results. But you know what they say, ‘time puts everything in its place’. It has been 13 years since the young man from Lyon arrived at the Bernabéu and today he is possibly experiencing his sweetest moment individually as a footballer. In fact, he has been in that moment for at least two seasons. With that moment I mean playing at the level of the best player in the world, although he was not the only one at that level, of course.
This Wednesday, March 6, Benzema signed in a foreign territory, Stamford Bridge, at the home of the European champion, a performance that will be saved for the memory, once again. One more page in the history books, with three goals in the same game, after coming from scoring another anthological hat-trick in the previous phase of the Champions League, a few weeks earlier, to eliminate Neymar, Messi and Mbappé’s PSG.
The value of the Frenchman has never been measured based on the goals he could score, his role on the field was more collective, hold balls, opening spaces or putting teammates in scoring situations. Perhaps because next to him was the top scorer in history, it is also true. But this indicates how Benzema has been able to adapt his game to the needs of the team at all times. Those are the players who make an entity great, those who play thinking what is best for the group at all times and forget about their personal achievements. And there are few of those today. And despite this, he is the 4th historical scorer in the Champions League.
That’s why you have to give so much value to the fact that if the situation or the team asks him to be the one to finish the plays and score the goals, he can also adapt and do so with such ease. Regarding that, it must be said, it is clear, that it is possible thanks to the support given by the ten who play behind him, who can relieve him of the creation of the play and then look for him in scoring positions.
The first goal of Tuesday’s game reflects well what Benzema is today, in his maturity. The ball reaches Vinicius, near to the band, who has the Chelsea defense glued and few teammates nearby. Benzema breaks away from his defensor and offers him support. As soon as the ball reaches him, he puts it into space and sends the Brazilian running forward in advantage. He puts him in a favorable position so that he can easily put the ball back on his head and the Frenchman finishes the play scoring. He makes his teammates better and makes it easier for them to play football, and he also finishes the plays that he sometimes starts.
When he arrived Madrid, I remember that he was a player that personally caught my attention. I had seen him score against Barcelona, in the Champions League, being a kid and wearing the yellow phosphorescent shirt that Lyon wore as a visitor. Playing alongside Juninho, another player who was addictive to watch play. But the team from the capital already had a striker by then, he was going to share minutes with Higuaín. The Argentine had already been in the team for a few years, he was much more outgoing and played with more confidence. In Spain they were called the dog and the cat, the latter being Benzema, quieter, shyer.
Looking back, we can understand the maturity process that this player has gone through, who has spent 13 years performing in an elite team. In the early years I remember my father saying all the time ‘don’t pass it to Benzema, he’s going to lose it’.
He was a shy player, who did not dare too much, did not play loose, and who often got nervous when he had the opportunity to score a goal. Sometimes he gave the feeling that he was hiding, he didn’t participate too much, but over the years and the confidence that his coaches have given him, the maturity he has had as a footballer has been seen. Now he wants the ball, he looks for it, he goes down to his field to start the play, he likes hiself. He assumes the team’s attack and carries it like it’s nothing. At 34 years old, he is the reference of the team, the continent and the soccer planet. You just had to be patient and let time put everything in his place.