Were it not for a certain Pole in Bavaria, Karim Benzema would have a strong case as Europe’s best out-and-out centre forward at this moment. Indeed, Robert Lewandowski might have the Frenchman beat in terms of sheer numbers this season, but Benzema is still one of the hottest forwards in the game right now.
Many pondered who would replace Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu upon his surprise sale to Juventus in the summer of 2018. A number of names, including Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, were mentioned, but it’s Benzema who has stepped up to fill the void left by his former teammate.
Of course, Benzema hasn’t quite managed to fully plug the hole in terms of goals left by Ronaldo, but there is no doubting his status as Real Madrid’s main man over the past two seasons. At 31, conventional wisdom states the Frenchman should be entering the twilight of his career, but these have been his peak years and there are no signs of him slowing down.
Load management will be crucial for Benzema over the next few years. This is why his exile from the France team is to Real Madrid’s advantage. The capital club are reported to be weighing up offering Benzema a new contract that would tie him to them until 2023. If they are to get value for that they must continue to load manage their best player.
Benzema has recently spoken about his disgruntlement at being exiled from the France squad for his role in a sex scandal involving Mathieu Valbuena back in 2015. Aiming his ire at FFF president Noel Le Graet, Benzema tweeted: “Noel, I thought you weren’t interfering with the coach’s decisions! I want you to know that I and I alone would end my international career. If you think I’m finished, let me play for one of the countries that I’m eligible for and we’ll see.”
It’s understandable that Benzema still wants to play for his country. Les Blues are enjoying a golden spell having won the 2018 World Cup. They will also be among the favourites for next summer’s European Championships. But from Real Madrid’s point of view, the additional rest time afforded to Benzema over his teammates during international breaks will stand them in good stead. They must continue to protect their top goalscorer and this allows them to do so.
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