Karim Benzema, football masterpiece (and not just a center forward)

Indescribable. It is perhaps the adjective that best suits him, because to summarize it would mean not doing justice to its qualities by making some of it go unnoticed, or more simply because it is impossible to substitute in words the visual perfection offered by an artistic masterpiece, for him that – footballing speaking – basically it is.
At the registry office it is Karim Mostafa Benzema, but they call him “Karim The Dream”, the dream, not only by phonetic analogy, but probably for the ability to substantiate in a single number 9 (the best of the last fifteen years) what is housed in the dream universe of every technician: strength, elegance, technique, flexibility, power, tactical intelligence. And goals, especially goals. It is precisely his numbers that give substance to his excessive power: a thousand ways of displaying his repertoire made of class and consistency on the pitch, over four hundred career goals, twenty-seven trophies on the bulletin board, a superfine talent. And zero compromises, so much so that it is decisive and at times disturbing almost in equal measure, from the beginning of his career in Lyon to the present day.

However, it is difficult to label him as “new”, a role which is not exactly natural at the beginning of his love story with the international football scene that has seen him gravitate more between the lines than constitute the fulcrum of the offensive package. And even diluting that selfishness that befits purebred “punteros” with the generosity and altruism of a finisher and man-assist under the sign of fantasy, a talent that will be highlighted in the most complete sense of the term in the Madrid period spent in alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Born in Lyon, with eight brothers in a suburb that is everything but a bed of roses, he explodes in Ligue 1, hoarding up trophies with the Olympique shirt (seven in a four-year period) and 54 centers in the last two seasons with the shirt of the Gones they will make him the market man of the summer of 2009. From the parts of Madrid the voices of that impertinent character are silenced by the conviction that he has everything to be “galactico”: it is Florentino Perez who personally asks for his hand by presenting himself at his house, plus a investiture that is not a market operation of the Real. And the facts will prove him right.

With the “blancos” he starts quietly, in his second season they give him the nickname “gato” derived from a statement by his coach José Mourinho at the press conference (“If you don’t have a dog to go hunting, and you have a cat, you have to go out with a cat. You will take less, but you will take something anyway “), but they soon realize that the feline that suits them best is of a completely different size and wickedness. The championships pass, and he is never in question when it comes to planning the eleven of the next year: in the middle, in front, there is Karim, he takes care of it. And he thinks about it a lot, one might add, not only taking in thirteen seasons a few glues from second place in the ranking of the best “all-time” scorers of Real Madrid, (in front of Di Stefano and just behind Raul and the unreachable CR7 ), but also positioning himself on the throne of the best assist-men in the history of the club. And then the records, the latest relating to the two hat-tricks in the Champions League (the “least young” player in the competition to score a three of a kind in a match), which make him reach eleven seasonal centers in the competition – personal best – and one step away from podium of the best Champions League strikers, occupied by Lewandovski and the couple formed by the usual suspects Messi-Ronaldo.

Then there is the national team, a partly sore point although 94 chips with 36 goals are not argent de poche. But more than anything else thorny topic for the controversies that at times accompanied his militancy with the jersey of Sélection. From the clarification on the choice to play with France (“for sporting reasons, but my country is Algeria”), to the Marseillaise not sung before the kick-off (“not even Zidane sings it”), and to the spit to ground after the execution on the occasion of the commemoration for the victims of the Bataclan, up to the declarations on Giroud owner at the center of the attack (“comparing him to me is like approaching a kart to a Ferrari”). The scandal that broke out in November 2015 with the accusation of “concurrence in attempted blackmail”, orchestrated by his friend Karim Zenati, against fellow countryman Valbuena led him to be excluded from the national team. And to detonate other fierce discussions comes three years after the investigation into his alleged involvement in an attempted kidnapping against his former prosecutor De Souza, who claims to have been approached and attacked by friends of his former client. He returns to wear the jersey of the transalpine national team in June 2021, after almost five years of debate on the advisability of his re-convocation and having lost the world title of Russia 2018 and a Nations League. He returns, yes, and he does it in his own way: 9 goals in the last thirteen games played, as if to support that declaration by Zidane who defined him “the best French striker in history, because he does not think only about the goal, but in the end it is always decisive “.

At 34, last December, Real still enjoys his Benzema as Karim still enjoys that Madrid which is also his. There are his feats, his good luck sash on his right hand (legacy of a clash in 2019 with Bartra del Betis, who left a fracture in his little finger so he decided not to go under the knife), his nine on his shoulders that much nine is not but also its being divisive, without filters, at ease in every illuminated area of ​​the field as in the shadow cones of the controversies at the center of which it ends. But with the spotlight always on him. Fans, football lovers, opponents and coaches. Like any self-respecting masterpiece.


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