Cristiano Ronaldo left and all of a sudden doubts hung over Real Madrid’s hopes for the 2018/19 season – and Karim Benzema was the subject of much of that doubt. Though he wears the No.9 on his back it was assumed that he couldn’t operate as the team’s main source of goals, but the Frenchman hasn’t let the criticism get to him and has been enjoying his best start to a season at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
More shots, more goals
In three games Benzema has four goals, but he is still playing for the team as he has done in previous seasons. He is performing all over the pitch but still managing to fill the void left by the Portuguese who, in his nine years in Madrid, was accountable for 30 per cent of the shots taken himself. During that same time, Benzema was behind 13 per cent of the team’s shots while this season he is responsible for 26.32 per cent.
Asensio is not Cristiano
Benzema almost always played for the Portuguese, moving to create space for his teammate, and he was not the only one. This year, he has looked the natural successor in the team, while many had expected that responsibility to fall on the shoulders of Marco Asensio. The Mallorcan’s game is too different though and he prefers to start on the sides and drift in with the ball.
A point of reference
Another explanation for his strong start to the season is his position on the pitch. In recent seasons, Cristiano was the man who took the shots and who the others looked to to finish chances. Now, he is the striker and spends more time in the area.
Untouchable with Lopetegui
Benzema has grown tired of hearing that he was Florentino Perez’s and then Zinedine Zidane’s protege. When the French coach announced his exit, many thought Benzema’s time was up too, but Julen Lopetegui has recognised his importance and has played him in every game so far, a luxury he was not afforded under Zidane.
Madrid is where Benzema is happy, and he is following the same work plan as in previous years, but with every appearance and goal his self-belief has grown. Last year every miss took its toll.
Benzema’s form is all the more striking because of the season that he endured last term, though he still had important moments. He has averaged 21.3 goals a season in Madrid, even alongside Cristiano, but those who know him best say that this season he is more the player he was at Lyon than anything he has shown in Spain.
News away from football means that he can now focus fully on his professional life. He could be definitively removed from the case involving Mathieu Valbuena in October.
No World Cup fatigue
Karim was the first to congratulate his compatriots for their World Cup triumph in Russia but watching your country raise the famous trophy without you cannot be easy, especially for someone of his quality. However, he has not been playing all summer and looks revitalised for it.