Karim Benzema is Real Madrids past and present Ihe their fut

เวลาปล่อย:2023-03-15 เรียกดู: ขนาดตัวอักษร:ใหญ่ กลาง เล็ก 【ปิด】

Karim Benzema is Real Madrids past and present. Is he their future too?

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Karim Benzema is Real Madrids past and present. Is he their future too?

Benzemas having an off year compared to recent brilliance for club and country, but hes far from finished and has some big games ahead in which to prove it.

David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Historically speaking, doubtingKarim Benzemahas been a bad move.

Some questioned if the 21-year-old signed fromLyonin 2009 was the right man to lead theReal Madridattack; Benzema fought off competition from Gonzalo Higuain to establish himself as the clubs undisputed No.9. Others werent convinced he could fill the scoring void left byCristiano Ronaldos departure in 2018; Benzema promptly went on to deliver four consecutive 20+ goal league seasons.

-Stream LIVE: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, LaLiga, Sunday 3/19, 3:45 p.m. ET, E+

Some thought Benzemas chances of winning the Ballon dOr were gone when he finished fourth in the 2021 shortlist. Scoring 15 Champions League goals to fire Madrid to the trophy a year later made an inarguable case for him being handed the prize last October.

Now, in 2023, the doubters are back as Benzemas injury-blighted season has people asking if its time for Madrid to move on. TheFrancestar is 35 and has been unavailable for 10 of 25 league games in 2022-23. He was (controversially)sent homefromLes Bleustraining camp before the QatarWorld Cupafter picking up another injury, and hes on course for his lowest goal tally for the season since 2017-18.

Benzemas status as an all-time great is beyond debate. Only Ronaldo scored more goals for Madrid, 450 to Benzemas 341. But with the club looking to bring in a forward this summer, his automatic starting spot could come under threat. And so ESPN examines Karim Benzemas future as Real Madrids first-choice centre-forward -- this season, next season and beyond -- and the impact he could have on this weekends Clasico withBarcelona.

With additional reporting by Julien Laurens and Rodrigo Faez

The 2021-22 season was the peak of Benzemas imperial phase. If his performances in the three preceding campaigns saw steadily improving figures -- with 21, 21 and 23 goals inLaLiga-- this was something else. 27 league goals, a career-best return, outperforming an xG, or expected goals, of 24.38. 15 Champions League goals, also his best ever, obliterating an xG of just 8.37. His tally in all competitions: 44 goals in 46 appearances. Maintaining those numbers was impossible and perhaps unrealistic; a comedown to more human levels of excellence was predictable.

Benzemas 2022-23 can be handily split into pre- and post-World Cup -- the former was defined by his desperation to get fit for the tournament, and the latter by his desire to prove that he isnt past his best -- but in both cases, the headline figures are solid and, when put alongside last seasons, unspectacular. Hes scored 11 league goals in 15 starts, from an xG of 13.37, and found the net twice in five Champions League games -- both vs.Liverpoolon Feb. 21 -- for a total of 18 goals in 27 appearances in all competitions.

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Its worth noting that many of Benzemas underlying numbers look little different from this season to last. In LaLiga, he is taking more touches per game (56.7 compared to 49.1), has a marginally better pass completion rate (87% to 85.2%), is creating more chances per game (2.2 to 1.9) and has the same xA, or expected assists, per game (0.2).

Benzemas fundamental problem has been injuries limiting playing time. Hes suffered eight separate injuries this season, including a series of hamstring problems, with the latest ankle knock keeping him out of Saturdays 3-1 LaLiga win overEspanyol. Combined with a slight reduction in his clinical finishing, swinging from outperforming his xG last season to underperforming this campaign, to paint a picture of a player in decline.

Sources told ESPN that Benzema blames his injuries this season on the amount of football he played the year prior: he managed 32 league games, 12 Champions League appearances, the Spanish Supercopa and Nations League games for France, all of it at the age of 34. The player argues that its inevitable that his body would suffer the consequences of that volume of minutes and expects to put his fitness problems behind him next year.

Benzemas deal at Madrid expires on June 30, 2023, though that timeline is nothing new: Madrid tend to extend the deals of veteran players over the age of 30 on an annual basis, allowing both parties to reflect on how theyre feeling before deciding whether to stick around for another season. The influential quartet of Benzema,Luka Modric,Toni Kroosand Nacho Fernandez are all in that position right now.

Sources told ESPN that Benzemas new contract has been all but agreed, with just the formalities, a signature and an official announcement required at this stage.

Barring an entirely unexpected change, Benzema isnt going anywhere. He will be Real Madrids first-choice centre-forward and captain next season, regardless of the fact that he turns 36 in December. Both player and club believe that there is no reason he cannot continue to operate at the highest level in the short- and medium-term, but he wont be alone in that department next season, as Madrid are looking at a number of candidates to diversify their attack this summer.

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The club have accepted that the first team squad needs another top-level centre-forward, having opted not to move in the summer of 2022 given the lack of suitable candidates afterKylian Mbappeturned down the chance to join fromParis Saint-Germain. Two of the playersbeing monitoredareDusan VlahovicofJuventusand TottenhamsRicharlison, although there are others.

The problem, however, is that being Benzemas understudy has proved an unenviable task. Alvaro Morata was brought back to the club from Juventus in 2016, and moved ontoChelseaa year later. Mariano Diaz arrived from Lyon in 2018 and is still at the club, albeit barely playing, on a hefty salary. Madrid paid €60 million to signLuka JovicfromEintracht Frankfurtin 2019, though his impact was so limited that they let him go for free last year.

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Looking further ahead, the Brazilian teenager EndrickFelipe, 16, will arrive in 2024, but the club will look to roll the dice on another Benzema alternative in the meantime. Benzema himself would be supportive of such a move, sources told ESPN, and believes that the squad would benefit from greater strength in depth.

With Barcelona nine points clear at the top of LaLiga, its tempting to say theres no longer a title race to speak of, at least not a genuine one. But if Madrid win SundaysClasicoat Camp Nou, the gap would be slashed to just six points, a not insurmountable advantage with 12 games left.

Naturally, Madrids chances of a victory will increase substantially with Benzema fit and in the starting XI. His career record against Barca might not be overwhelming -- 13 goals in 44Clasicos-- but his influence over these games in recent peak years has far outweighed those numbers. Still, there are no guarantees.

Benzema started the lastClasicomeeting, the Copa del Rey semifinal, first leg, at the Bernabeu on March 2, which Barca won 1-0. He had an early goal disallowed for offside, but was otherwise quiet as Madrid failed to register a single shot on target. He scored Madrids late consolation goal in a 3-1 Spanish Supercopa final loss to Barcelona on Jan. 15, and the opening goal in a 3-1 LaLiga win at the Bernabeu on Oct. 16.

If you need an illustration of Madrids inability to effectively cope without Benzema, you can review last seasons LaLiga clash on March 20. Coach Carlo Ancelotti inexplicably fielded Luka Modric as the falsest of false nines around the penalty area in the Frenchmans absence, though the void he left in midfield rendered Madrids attacking threat close to zero. Barcelona would go on to win one of the most one-sidedClasicosof recent memory, 4-0.

In 2023, Madrids most in-form forward has been not Benzema, butVinicius Junior. The two forged a thrilling partnership last season, but havent clicked as convincingly this year. The pairs ability to link up -- and break free of the pressure applied by Barca defendersRonald AraujoandJules Koundein the Copa del Rey two weeks ago -- could be decisive. Rodrygo Goes, another who loves to combine with Benzema when he drives infield and looks to swap quick passes, will also be important, whether from the start or off the bench.

The same is true ofFederico Valverdeand of Modric. All of them play their best football when close to Benzema, a uniquely selfless centre-forward. Despite his age, despite all those injuries, he is the glue that binds the Real Madrid attack together, which is what makes the thought of replacing him so daunting.