Karim Benzema once again demonstrated his importance to Real Madrid as he helped them to a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday night.
While Benzema has always big a key part of Real Madrid sides since signing in 2009, but his impact was somewhat overshadowed by the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who also took up the primary goalscoring opportunities while at the club.
But since Ronaldo’s departure for Juventus in 2018, Benzema has entered the limelight once again and is finally getting the plaudits he deserves, along with the trophies to go with them. After scoring 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions last season, helping Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League Double, Benzema is favourite to win the 2021/22 Ballon d’Or with the nominees set to be announced at the end of the week.
Unfortunately, Benzema’s performance in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup final will not count towards the 2021/22 Ballon d’Or as the award now officially takes seasons into account rather than calendar years, it has got his 2022/23 Ballon d’Or campaign off to a positive start.
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There were goals in either half for Real Madrid, the first coming from David Alaba and the second, of course, from Benzema to wrap things up. Although questions will be rightly asked about the goalkeeping as Kevin Trapp allowed the ball to go through him, it shouldn’t take anything away from Benzema’s first-time finish from a Vinicius Junior cross having made space for himself on the edge of the box. Remarkably, it was also the 16th time Vinicius had assisted Benzema across all competitions for Real Madrid.
But it was all about Benzema, who is now the second highest scorer in Real Madrid’s history. The Frenchman entered the season level with Los Blancos legend Raul on 323 goals but has now taken second outright, a fantastic achievement considering he had played such a support role in his first nine years at the club.
Naturally it is only Ronaldo who has scored more times for Real Madrid than Benzema, but the Portuguese may be slightly out of reach, leaving the club in 2018 with 450 goals. However, that hasn’t stopped the praise coming in for Benzema.
“He’s definitely one of the most under-appreciated players in the history of Real Madrid,” Joleon Lescott told BT Sport.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Owen Hargreaves added when talking about how Real Madrid might eventually look to move on from Benzema.
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“But I think the thing about Benzema is that he’s not going to rely on his physicality because he’s not super powerful, super explosive. So I think he’s going to age well. He’s not going to worry about making these big runs, he’s always been a smart player. I think in that sense he probably has a couple of years at the top level, he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down.
“I don’t think you can [replace Benzema]. They’ve tried to replace the midfield or plan for the next phase with (Eduardo) Camavinga obviously and (Aurelien) Tchouameni who they’ve signed. They’ve got some fabulous players, but at the top of the pitch is where you need to replace, I think Benzema — obviously they tried with (Kylian) Mbappe — is going to be hard to replace because like for like there isn’t another one out there.”
The win also cemented Carlo Ancelotti’s spot in UEFA Super Cup history, securing what is his fourth title. Two came with AC Milan as Champions League winners in 2003 and 2007, before adding another two with Real Madrid in 2014 and this year. Ancelotti is now clear of Pep Guardiola, who has won the Super Cup three times as a manager.
Then, the important one for Real Madrid, they are now level with Barcelona and AC Milan on five Super Cup wins, with no club managing more. Could they make it six next year?