La Liga: Despondent Benzema searches for form
Real Madrid’s mercurial striker has been in a slump and with the team seeking a record 10th Champions League title, they need him to improve.
By Halima Ali
Last week, Karim Benzema was booed by the home crowd as he departed the Stade de France during a World Cup qualifier against Spain. It was not the first time this season he has been heckled by his own fans.
Whilst the same has not yet occurred at the Santiago Bernabéu, the Frenchman is struggling to score, with every passing week and every goalless game sending his confidence plummeting.
Brought in to the club by President Florentino Pérez, who flew to Lyon to personally secure his signing in 2009, Benzema’s trajectory at Real Madrid has been up and down to say the least, going from a cat to a lion and perhaps now back to the cat again.
It was coach José Mourinho who, in his first season in charge at the club, likened the number nine to a cat when comparing him and Gonzalo Higuaín. “If I can’t hunt with a dog, I will hunt with a cat,” he said. “With a dog you hunt more and you hunt better. But if you have not got a dog and you have got a cat, you hunt with a cat.”
It was not the only time he would openly criticise Benzema. Others had chimed in, with former Real player Guti calling him “cold”. He was labelled overweight and lazy. It seemed to some that he did not care.
But halfway through Mourinho’s first season at the club in 2010/11, the cat was able to turn it around and the goals started flowing. This form carried over to the next season, when the forward turned up for pre-season slimmer and raring to go. He racked up 32 goals and along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Higuaín, the trio scored a record-breaking 118 goals en-route to the club’s first liga title in four years.
The incredible tally surpassed the numbers of the attack led by Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás when they won five European Cup titles, and that of the legendary Quinta del Buitre, spearheaded by Emilio Butragueño.
But perhaps most significantly, Benzema had won the battle against Higuaín and was starting the big games. So much so, that the Argentine came very close to leaving the Spanish capital last summer, only to be persuaded by Mourinho to stay.
Almost a year later, the tables have turned. While Higuaín has also not been prolific this season and his long-term future is uncertain, he has certainly won back his starting spot, with The Special One favouring him for the big games against Manchester United and Barcelona in recent weeks.
At the weekend, as Madrid travelled to Zaragoza, they again dropped points with a 1-1 draw. Just six minutes into the game, Zaragoza went 1-0 up with a strike by former Barcelona B forward Rodri. Cristiano Ronaldo equalised before half-time but Los Merengues and Higuaín were unable to get a winner. Benzema meanwhile, did not even get on the pitch.
And herein lies the problem, the number nine seems to have gone back to square one and having to prove himself. While there is no doubt he is a technically gifted player with great talent, he has lacked consistency and as the season enters the crunch phase with the final stages of the Champions League on the horizon, Benzema seems more and more despondent.
Time is running out for him to re-discover his goal-scoring prowess, while for Madrid, the clock is also running down. On Wednesday they take on Galatasaray in the Champions League. Should they progress, there will be plenty of big matches ahead, games that could change the outlook of their season and write a new chapter of the club’s history and while so far he has been doing it pretty much on his own, Ronaldo needs help from his supporting cast, including Benzema.
Recently, the French international’s agent was forced to deny the striker would be leaving the club and while President Pérez will be holding on to one of his favourite players for the time being, Benzema needs to get his name on the scoresheet soon, or it won’t be long before the vocal Bernabéu faithful begin to voice their discontent.
Real Zaragoza 1 – 1 Real Madrid
Real Betis 0 – 0 Getafe CF
Athletic Bilbao 1 – 0 Granada CF
Atlético Madrid 1 – 1 Valencia CF
RCD Espanyol 2 – 2 Real Sociedad
RCD Mallorca 2 – 3 Deportivo La Coruña
Real Valladolid 1 – 3 Osasuna
Levante UD 1 – 0 Sevilla FC
Celta de Vigo 2 – 2 FC Barcelona
Rayo Vallecano 1 – 3 Málaga CF
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Published: Apr 2 2013
Category: Featured, Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=8296
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Tags: Barça, barcelona, Benzema, CF, Karim Benzema, la liga, Liga, Los Merengues, Real Madrid, Spain football, spain soccer