Karim Benzema shouldn’t still be at Real Madrid.
The statistics say that you’re more likely to sign on a six-month loan spell from West Ham before falling asleep on the substitutes’ bench than last a decade up front for Los Blancos.
Err, actually, scrap that. But you get the point. Seeing in your testimonial year as a striker is an achievement reserved only for Raul, Alfredo Di Stefano, Emilio Burtagueno, Sanitllana and, now, Benzema. Some 5-a-side team.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Hugo Sanchez, Gonzalo Higuain, Ronaldo, Ivan Zamorano, Davor Suker and Ruud van Nistelrooy all scored goals with ease at the Bernabeu but were on their way before the ten years were up.
The path is also littered with the less successful spells of Emmanuel Adebayor, Nicolas Anelka, Antonio Cassano, Javier Saviola and Perica Ognjenovic. Pat yourself on the head and rub your stomach if you remember Madrid’s least successful Serbian import.
How has Benzema managed to avoid the pitfalls that have swallowed up so many before him? Simple, he’s a chameleon.
Karim the chameleon. Has a nice ring to it, no?
Now, you might be wondering what Benzema has in common with a ‘distinctive and highly specialised clade of Old World lizards’.
It’s the Frenchman’s unerring ability to blend in with his surroundings at the Bernabeu, allowing him to escape the attention of Florentino Perez, also known as football’s number one predator.
At first there was Benzema the substitute. Upon arriving at the club, Benzema found himself playing second fiddle to Higuain. Lesser players would have kicked off. After all, Benzema was a £35million signing. But Benzema pursued.
Under both Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho Benzema fought to prove his worth. It wasn’t until the start of the 2011/12 season, in which Benzema scored 32 times in all competitions, that he assumed the role of leading no.9.
The 2013 signing of Gareth Bale saw Benzema forced to adopt another identity. He assumed a withdrawn role, not so much false 9 as false 10, allowing Bale and Ronaldo to flourish.
He then morphed into a left winger to placate Ronaldo’s relentless desire for goals. Benzema’s own goal tally took a hit, but he was still a vital part of the side that won three successive Champions League trophies under Zinedine Zidane.
This season, Benzema has transformed into a leader. Ten league goals in 22 appearances is a solid return during a turbulent campaign at the Bernabeu, but it’s Benzema’s ability to galvanise a young squad that has impressed.
Benzema was 21 when he arrived in Madrid, so he understands what Vinicius Junior, Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Odriozola and Sergio Reguilon are currently going through.
At the age of 31, Benzema’s latest camouflage may well be his last at the club. To have lasted ten seasons at a club with more drama and backstabbing than an episode of Eastenders at Christmas is an achievement in itself.
In terms of pure goals- the currency he’ll be judged upon when all is said and done- Benzema will have to go some way to top Ferenc Puskas, Madrid’s fifth highest all-time top goalscorer, but he’s now gone clear of Hugo Sanchez in seventh.
Not bad for a chameleon.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- The Coppa Italia quarter-finals provided the most entertaining three days of the season
- Farewell to Marouane Fellaini: the most triggering footballer in Premier League history
- The future of football is here – it is management by artificial intelligence