What is Real Madrid’s long term plan for Karim Benzema?

With 14 goals in La Liga this season, Karim Benzema had been enjoying a successful campaign before the global coronavirus crisis brought everything to a halt. Now, there is no suggestion of when the La Liga season will resume and every other division in Europe is in the same situation. These are unprecedented times for the sport.

And so with no matches to preview or react to it’s time to consider some big picture questions. Real Madrid find themselves in the midst of a transition. Zinedine Zidane’s side might be fighting near the top of La Liga for only their third title in 11 years, but this is a squad that is still stuck between the Old Guard and the new generation.

One question Real Madrid must find an answer to over the next few seasons concerns the future of Benzema. At 32 years old, the Frenchman is coming into the twilight of his career, but he is seemingly only getting better with age. So should Los Blancos look to replace Benzema sooner rather than later or stick with him for the long term?

A number of big name strikers have been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu in recent years. Most persistently, Robert Lewandowski has been speculated to be on Real Madrid’s radar with the Polish centre forward widely believed to be keen on making the switch to the Spanish capital at one point.

For all his undeniable brilliance, though, Lewandowski is only one year younger than Benzema at 31. He wouldn’t be a long term successor to the Frenchman. Real Madrid would surely face the same dilemma with Lewandowski as they do now with Benzema. Instead, they need someone who will carry their attack for years to come.

Erling Haaland fits the bill. The Norwegian has hit the ground running at Borussia Dortmund and at just 19 years old is set to spend the next decade at the elite level of the sport. Harry Kane has also been previously mentioned as a future ‘Galactico’ and with the England international reportedly considering his future at Tottenham Hotspur the pieces might be falling into place for him to join Real Madrid.

Of course, Los Blancos spent big on the signing of Luka Jovic last summer. He was meant to be the long term successor to Benzema, but has so far struggled to grow accustomed to his new surroundings. Finding a successor to Benzema won’t be easy, but Real Madrid must start devising a plan of action.

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Could Mariano Diaz play a role for Real Madrid down the title race final stretch?

It was surprising enough that Mariano Diaz was named in the Real Madrid squad for last week’s Clasico clash against Barcelona. That the striker was introduced for the final few minutes and then found the back of the net as well was even more surprising. It was just another crazy moment in what has been a crazy season in La Liga.

Until that game Mariano hadn’t made an appearance in the Spanish top flight this season. Indeed, the former Lyon striker who returned to the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2018 has been ostracised by Zinedine Zidane recently, making just three appearances for Real Madrid over the 2019/20 campaign.

However, it’s possible that Mariano could play a role for Real Madrid between now and the end of the season. With Luka Jovic still struggling to find his feet at the Santiago Bernabeu after his summer signing from Eintracht Frankfurt, Zidane will need a second choice striker to provide some back up for Karim Benzema.

While Benzema has been in excellent form over the season as a whole, the Frenchman has scored just once in La Liga since the turn of the year. It could be the case that Zidane even looks to Mariano as an alternative rather than just a deputy for Benzema. His impressive performance, even if it was only for a few minutes, against Barcelona certainly won’t have harmed his cause.

Mariano’s stoppage time goal against Barca to secure all three points for Real Madrid suggest that the striker should have been given more of an opportunity since returning to the Spanish capital two summers ago. This is a player who scored 18 times in 30 starts for Lyon in Ligue 1 three seasons ago. Mariano is a proven goalscorer who surely has something to offer Los Blancos.

This is a Real Madrid side that is in transition. In any other season Zidane’s team would be in trouble, but Barcelona are also going through something of a transition. They have suffered from the same inconsistencies having already gone through one manager following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde.

In the long term, it’s possible that Mariano won’t have much of a future as a Real Madrid player. However, at this moment the 26-year-old has something to offer Zidane. His Clasico goal against Barcelona could become more than just an anomaly.

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No circus at Real Madrid as Zidane is quietly getting the job done

There was much scepticism when Zinedine Zidane returned as coach of Real Madrid last summer after walking out of the club a year beforehand. But the Frenchman’s return is being justified by every passing week, and Real Madrid are top of La Liga.

Madrid have 49 points and it is only their fierce rival Barcelona who can stop their quest for a La Liga title, they currently have 46 points. In 3rd is Getafe with 39 points. It has been quite an achievement for Madrid under Zidane who have just come off of a great weekend as they beat their eternal rivals in the derby Atletico Madrid 1-0 keeping a clean sheet in the process. That score line summed up Madrid, no mad 4-3 wins and games filled with red cards, just a simple 1-0 will do the job.

That win ended Atletico’s title hopes too and Diego Simeone’s side now sit a huge 14 points behind their rivals.

Compared to other seasons Real are not scoring tons of goals, just 40 so far for them. True that is still the 2nd best in the league but is still 12 behind Barcelona and only one in front of Villarreal. But it is in defence where Real are really shining, conceding just 13 goals this season which is by far the best defensive record in the league. They allowed a great side like Atletico just 1 shot on target the whole game at the Bernabeu and at home that figure goes down to just 7 goals shipped.

Sergio Ramos has helped keep 11 clean sheets whilst Raphael Varane and Daniel Carvajal have kept 10. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has easily been the best shot stopper in the league and whilst we associate Madrid with attack and goals the focus has clearly been on defence.

Only Karim Benzema has been scoring the goals for Real, he currently has 13 and the days of having a player scoring 40 or 50 goals a season in Cristiano Ronaldo has long gone. He will be for ever thanked at the club, but football is and always will be a team game and that is the mentality of the club under Zidane this season.

Incredibly Real have only won the league once in the past 7 years which last happened in 2017. Whilst Madrid will have a go on all fronts in the Champions League club president Florentino Perez would love to deliver the league and knock back Barcelona, it would mean a great deal to stop Barca winning their 3rd league title in a row.

As far as the Champions League goes, Madrid will face off against Manchester City in what should be a mouth watering 2 legged affair. It also brings back Pep Guardiola to the Bernabeu he whose blood bleeds the colours of Barcelona, just for some more added spice.

Can Madrid win their 2nd title in 8 years, they have given themselves every chance to do so, and for now it looks like Zidane has come back to save Madrid who were clearing in a chaotic mess a year ago.

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Karim Benzema’s lack of supply line is Real Madrid’s biggest problem

Just as Eden Hazard looked to be finding his feet as a Real Madrid player, injury struck. Again. Of course, the Belgian had to wait a number of weeks for his first appearance for his new club after suffering an injury right at the end of pre-season. Now, Hazard is on the sidelines with an ankle injury which is widely expected to rule him out of next week’s Clasico.

On his day, there aren’t many better than Hazard in the European game right now. He has the ability to win a match almost entirely on his own, but his biggest benefit to Real Madrid right now is in the supply line he offers Karim Benzema. The partnership between Benzema and Hazard has the potential to carry Real Madrid a long way.

There were signs of a growing understanding between the two players before Hazard’s injury. Now that the Belgian is ruled out for the time being, the lack of a supply line for Benzema has become Real Madrid’s biggest problem, the thing that could compromise their whole season.

The issue has been mitigated in recent weeks by the form of Rodrygo. The Brazilian teenager has exploded on to the scene this season, but he is still of a very tender age and can’t be expected to carry Real Madrid on a weekly basis. Then there’s Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid’s other teenage Brazilian.

After a shaky start to the season which had some questioning whether a loan away from the Santiago Bernabeu would be best for the youngster, Vinicius has rediscovered some of last season’s form. But he remains a volatile sort of player. A lack of final product has been Vinicius’ problem from the moment he broke through.

Gareth Bale has played well at times this season, but he too is sidelined through injury. What’s more, the Welshman is expected to finally leave the Spanish capital in the not so distant future. And Marco Asensio is predicted to miss all of the 2019/20 campaign after suffering an ACL injury in the summer.

Benzema is the face of Real Madrid in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo age. He is the player Zinedine Zidane has built around in an attempt to take the club back to the top of the Spanish and European game, but he might not have the building blocks to do that.

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Karim Benzema contract talk underlines his importance to Real Madrid

There was a time not so long ago when Karim Benzema’s time as a Real Madrid player looked as good as over. The Frenchman was given the now customary roasting by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd as they expressed their disgruntlement at the striker’s lack of edge in front of goal. It seemed likely Benzema would leave the Spanish capital sooner rather than later.

A lot has changed since then. In the post-Cristiano Ronaldo age, it has been Benzema who become the face of Real Madrid. The Frenchman hasn’t quite stepped into the void vacated by his former Portuguese teammate (because who could really do that?), but he has upped his own levels to mitigate the blow.

In fact, Benzema has actually scored more goals for Real Madrid over the past two seasons than Ronaldo has for Juventus over the same time frame. It’s therefore unsurprising that the Spanish capital club are now reportedly looking to extend Benzema’s contract until 2023. He has quite simply become the most important player at the club.

Real Madrid’s hopes and dreams for this season are resting on Benzema. That isn’t exactly the best position to be in when the Frenchman has suffered more than a few injury problems over the years, but it is the reality of the situation for a team still transitioning between the Ronaldo age and a new generation.

Zinedine Zidane might now have Eden Hazard and Rodrygo, the teenage Brazilian who has taken Real Madrid by storm this season, but both players still require Benzema to play off. Luka Jovic was signed for around £60 million from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, but the Serbian has so far failed to show anything that suggests he can effectively deputise for Benzema.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are also better players when Benzema is on the pitch. The Frenchman is the dynamo through which Real Madrid play through. The drop off when he is not involved is drastic and so it’s understandable that they wish to tie him down for the foreseeable future even as he enters the twilight years of his career.

For a long time it seemed that Benzema would one day play in the Premier League. A move to Arsenal was a staple of the gossip column for a number of years, but Real Madrid have gone from being unsure of his place at the club to being unable to let him leave.

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A preview of gameweek 5 in LaLiga

Football, football, football.

Here is our preview of all ten games in LaLiga this coming weekend.

Osasuna v Real Betis

Key men: Roberto Torres (Osasuna); Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)

Prediction: Osasuna 1 – 1 Real Betis Continue reading

A preview of this weekend’s LaLiga action

Another full list of LaLiga matches awaits all Spanish football fans this weekend. There are some very interesting matchups to look out for as well.

Here is our preview of all ten matches.

Sevilla v Celta Vigo

Key men: Jordan (Sevilla); Aspas (Celta Vigo)

Prediction: Sevilla 2 – 1 Celta Vigo

Sevilla are the early LaLiga leaders and I can’t see that changing after this game. They should overcome Celta Vigo on Friday night. Continue reading

Fantasy LaLiga picks for this weekend’s matches

How did your LaLiga fantasy team get on over the opening weekend?

I’m sure, like all of us, you’ll need to make some changes throughout the squad. Well, that’s what we’re here for.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend.

Goalkeeper – Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao) – 5.5 million

A good budget option, Unai Simon is only half the price of last week’s pick, Jan Oblak. Simon managed a clean sheet against Barcelona so another one is very possible away to Getafe. Continue reading

Preview of all this weekend’s LaLiga action

There were some shocks in the opening round of games of the LaLiga season.

Athletic Bilbao scored a late winner to take all three points from league champions Barcelona. A night Antoine Griezmann and co will look to forget as soon as they can.

Real Madrid looked solid in their 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, even without Eden Hazard. Karim Benzema certainly hit the ground running for Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both started with three points from their games while Villarreal and Granada played out an enthralling 4-4 draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

This weekend, LaLiga again has games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Continue reading

Pressure on Zinedine Zidane at its greatest to beat Barcelona

zidane-real-madrid(1)

Zinedine Zidane the magic man is back at Real Madrid and this coming season all of the pressure will be on the Frenchman to deliver the title and usurp Barcelona who have been completely dominant.

When Zidane came back to Real in March the club hardly exploded and indeed didn’t really improve under him but at the end of the day he was brought back earlier to just stabilise the ship. Zidane will know as will the fans that the real business with the club will commence when the league season kicks off in August. And you can forget about the Champions League. Whilst they will fight to be champions of Europe once again the priority will be about winning La Liga. Incredibly Madrid have only won 1 La Liga title in the past 7 years.

Madrid have spent big and the purchase of Eden Hazard from Chelsea is their star signing. He is the one that is supposed to bring the balance back to the team. But Hazard as great as he is, can go missing in games. It will be Zidane’s task to guide the Belgian through the season where consistency becomes key to success.

Paul Pogba has been hinted at but he will have to fall into place and one wonders if his signing will be good for such a sensitive player. Even Ronaldo got booed at the Bernabeu.

The truth is that Zidane is about to undergo the biggest challenge of his career. Not only does he have to perform well on his return, and remember they say never go back to your old clubs. But he has to stop Barcelona from winning the league which is easier said than done. And of course Barca will not be the only threat to Madrid this season with their city rivals Atletico Madrid making huge progress and buying Joao Felix who is supposed to be the next big player. They will be in with a shout for the league too.

Zidane will need to find a good balance with his team and they will have to attack and be much more aggressive this season with the ball. One finds that Madrid just aren’t quite there and need a striker that can get them 30 goals a season. Is it simple that the club still haven’t recovered from losing Ronaldo? Benzema is good but he isn’t Ronaldo.

Maybe just maybe Zidane will give another chance to Gareth Bale who in truth has done little wrong. Zidane simply has the greatest season challenge of his career to date.