Karim Benzema: Player Profile

Madrid’s Benzema Rising To The Opportunity

Personal information 
Full name: Karim Mostafa Benzema
Date of birth: 19 December 1987 (age 26)
Place of birth: Lyon, France
Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
Playing position: Striker

Club information 
Current club: Real Madrid
Number: 9

Youth career 
1996–2005: Lyon

Senior career 
2004–2006 Lyon B 20 Appearances, 15 goals
2004–2009 Lyon 148 Appearances, 66 goals
2009– Real Madrid 223 Appearances, 110 goals

National team
2004 France U17 4 Appearances, 1 goal
2004–2005 France U18 17 Appearances, 14 goals
2005–2006 France U19 9 Appearances, 5 goals
2006–2007 France U21 5 Appearances, 0 goals
2007– France 65 Appearances, 19 goals

A precocious talent and widely considered to be a world class all-round forward, Benzema can make his own chances, finish clinically in the area and make assists for his teammates. He always places his talents at the service of the team.

His game is based on power and movement, skill on the ball and deadly finishing in the last few metres of the pitch. He primarily plays as a striker whose influence can extend out to the wings and is known for his technical ability, powerful style of play, and vast goal-scoring ability.

From the beginning of his career at Olympique Lyon it was obvious that he would be a great player. During his spell at the French club he collected several collective and individual honours such as the Bravo Award in 2008.

It was therefore no surprise that Real Madrid did not think twice about recruiting such a special talent and signed him the following summer.

Karim Benzema's career has undergone an amazing transformation in the space of just a few months. It has been an up-and-down journey for the 26-year-old forward since he arrived at the Bernabeu in the summer of 2009 in a deal eventually worth over 40 million euros.

At most clubs, a striker who has played more than 200 games and scored more than 100 goals would have already secured iconic status, but Benzema’s four and a half seasons have been unconventional.

He has drifted in and out of favour with both the fans and his coaches, but in Carlo Ancelotti and, significantly, assistant coach Zinedine Zidane, he has now found two avid supporters.

Even when being booed and criticized earlier in the season, the former Paris Saint-Germain coach gave him full public backing. The coaching team resisted repeated calls to replace him with Alvaro Morata.

That faith has been rewarded with Benzema’s upturn in form, which has intensified since the turn of the year. A number of his strikes have come in crucial games, playing a key role as Los Blancos move challenge for the title.

They remain in the running to win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League."Benzema is comfortable in the side and with our style of play," Ancelotti said. "He is concentrating hard on his work and that is paying off."

For the first time, Benzema is in favour with the club’s support, the coach and the board. For most of the last four years, at least one of those groups and often more has been against him.

Benzema finds it harder than most to win support from the terraces. His deliberate movements on the pitch and introverted personality can make him appear to lack passion.

Those factors can make him an easy target compared to established stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos or enthusiastic youngsters like Jese and Morata.

He receives less patience than most teammates are afforded when hit by a spell of bad form. His current exploits are gaining widespread recognition, but he has impressed in the white of Madrid before.

He did score 32 goals in all competitions in 2011-12, although that was overshadowed by Ronaldo netting a sensational 60 and Jose Mourinho ending Barcelona’s run of three-straight Liga titles.

Gonzalo Higuain was a constant rival for selection in his first four years. With only one place up for grabs at centre forward, his high-profile colleague was always waiting to pounce.

It was rare for either to see out a full 90 minutes and a poor performance from one would mean the other quickly came into favour.

Last summer, Madrid sold the popular Higuain, who had become disillusioned in the Spanish capital, to Napoli. It was a show of faith in Benzema when the club resisted temptation to sign another striker and instead spent 100 million euros on Gareth Bale.

That trust made his early-season struggles harder for some to take. But the club is now convinced by his performances and his role as the starting forward is set to continue beyond this season.

Ancelotti’s support is a crucial factor, as is the belief that the Frenchman’s playing style perfectly complements the team’s two most marketable and expensive stars: Bale and Ronaldo.

The Frenchman, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have been outstanding in attack for Los Blancos, combining to form a lethal partnership.

The perfect example of their deadly partnership was the UEFA Champions League, round of 16, first leg tie against Schalke.

A masterclass with a thumping victory over Schalke in which Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all scored twice.

The rise of Benzema comes at the perfect time in terms of his contractual situation. The six-year deal he signed after joining the club expires in the summer of 2015 and negotiations are already underway to extend that, with the club hoping to have things tied up before the World Cup.

Providing he agrees to sign, there are no proposals for a big-money attacking arrival in the summer. Of course, you can never say never with Florentino Perez but plans for the future of the striker spot are currently centred around Benzema.

With every goal he scores, that position is strengthened. Benzema can hold up the ball well, go inside or out and isn't a slouch. Combine them all and he possesses more qualities in his game than most strikers in the world.

He has been impressive for the Spanish giants this term, scoring 23 goals along with 11 assists in all competitions and if he can produce regularly, then all the abilities can take his game to the next level.