• Analysis

How Benzema has thrived without Ronaldo for Real Madrid

Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
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Karim Benzema’s rise from a lost cause to Real Madrid’s dangerman ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left has been remarkable, to say the least.

It was only a year ago that the struggling Karim Benzema seemed destined to leave Real Madrid. He had only scored 31 goals in his last 95 appearances by the time the club won the 2018 Champions League in Kiev.

But Ronaldo’s shock €112m exit for Juventus that same year literally turned the tables in Benzema’s favour. Suddenly, he was back in demand and expected to lead the charge alongside Gareth Bale.

The striker has since truly flourished in his new role with 41 goals and 16 assists in 68 appearances across the last two seasons.

Not even Eden Hazard’s blockbuster €100m arrival from Chelsea has overshadowed the flying Frenchman, who leads the LaLiga scoring charts on nine goals from 11 games this season. And it seems there’s still a lot more to come yet as well.

Benzema’s new Real Madrid role

Critics in Spain frequently lashed out against Benzema for his underwhelming statistics. They paled big time in comparison to team-mate Ronaldo.

The Portuguese superstar’s feats in Madrid were almost beyond belief. He scored a club-record 450 goals in 438 appearances, and bagged an incredible 44 hat-tricks during his nine-year stint.

In fairness, though, Benzema’s main focus was to help create opportunities for the prolific Ronaldo. He often dropped deep to draw defenders to him and open up space for his team-mate despite being the centre-forward.

With Ronaldo now out of the picture, however, the 31-year-old has had to step up as Los Blancos’ main man.

Suddenly, Benzema’s contributions have grown significantly and he’s taken on more responsibilities as well. For example, he rarely ever took penalties in his first nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

But, while Sergio Ramos is the main penalty taker, the former France international takes the second spot-kick in games or when the Real captain is unavailable.

“Before there was a guy who scored more than 50 goals a season and I was in the role of provider,” Benzema told France Football in February.

“I played geared to Cristiano. We formed a good duo. I looked for him continually with the objective to help him score even more goals.

“Now, I am the leader of the attack. It is up to me to make the difference. I am very happy because I can play my true football.”

More clinical than even Messi & Ronaldo

cristiano ronaldo, karim benzema
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Not many would’ve seen this coming, but Benzema has actually been more efficient in front of goal than either Lionel Messi or Ronaldo.

Spanish paper Marca reported earlier this month that the former Lyon man had scored his 41 goals from just 97 shots. Therefore, he’s only needed 2.3 shots to find the back of the net.

Messi, meanwhile, has taken an average of 2.5 shots to get on target, with Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez averaging 2.8. While Ronaldo sits on 3.2 shots amid his struggles for regular goals at Juventus.

The only player to exceed Benzema in proficiency is Robert Lewandowski on a stunning 1.95 shots per goal for Bayern Munich.

It’s just another sign of how far Benzema has come in the last few years, with Zinedine Zidane clearly more dependent on him. The Real Madrid coach has, in fact, played the striker for 2,092 minutes since his return in March.

While only Lewandowski (63 goals), Messi (60) and Kylian Mbappe (47) have beaten Benzema’s tally for the last two seasons.