As Real Madrid progressed in the Champions League quarter-finals, it was that man Karim Benzema once again who got them on their way.
After missing the first leg through injury and watching his side scrape through as 1-0 winners with a late goal, Benzema returned to the starting lineup for the second leg and was imperious once again as Los Blancos sealed a 3-1 win on the night, going through 4-1 on aggregate.
It was the Frenchman’s 70th goal in the Champions League, fifth on the all-time list behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Raul.
It was also his 270th strike for the Madrid club, moving him to within 20 goals of fourth place on the all-time scoring charts behind Santillana. The man is a bonafide legend when it comes to the club that are famed for playing in all-white.
So how is it that he’s so disrespected when it comes to the strikers that have played in the same time frame as him? The likely answer is probably in line with the same sort of things we hear about Wayne Rooney.
His selflessness often saw him pass the limelight to his teammates, in particular Cristiano Ronaldo. While Ronaldo stole the headlines with his mind-blowing 450 goals in nine seasons at the club, Benzema’s numbers paled in comparison.
He scored 192 goals for Madrid during that period, failing to hit the 20 goal mark on three occasions. But despite all that, he retained the number nine shirt because of what else he brought to the team. A significant ability on the ball that relayed into playmaking despite being an outright centre forward, with pace, dribbling ability, passing and a willingness to do the dirty work for the team.
When Ronaldo left, many expected Real Madrid to spend big bucks on a superstar replacement to take on the goalscoring void he’d left behind. When that didn’t happen, all eyes moved to Benzema.
Since the start of the 2018/19 season, Benzema has fired in 78 goals for Los Blancos – 50 more than Sergio Ramos who has scored the next most.
The reliance on Benzema has eerily replicated what was expected when Ronaldo was at the club and yet the 31-year-old is standing firm in his ability. He fired Real to the La Liga title last season, with only Lionel Messi scoring more goals than him domestically, and now is a huge reason why they’re still in the race for the title and in Europe’s premier competition.
He is the player with the most assists in Real Madrid’s history, has won three Spanish titles, four Champions League titles and had it not been for politics with the national team he would almost certainly have a World Cup winner’s medal under his belt too.
There have been some tremendous strikers to play in the same generation as Benzema, including Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane, but you can make the argument that they’ve all been given their flowers during their careers.
Suarez was part of the legendary MSN trio and is Uruguay’s all-time top goalscorer, while his stellar season with Liverpool helped him stand out as one of the best. Lewandowski won the most recent version of the FIFA The Best award, recognising him as the best player in the world for 2020, while Aguero and Kane have scored so many goals for so many seasons that they’re automatically included in the conversations about best striker of the generation.
While Benzema doesn’t quite hit their numbers, his tally stands up with them and his achievements outshine them too. He is without a doubt a Real Madrid legend and the most underrated striker of his generation.