In Focus: Red-hot Benz has found a new gear for Real
Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more Champions League goals for Real Madrid than Karim Benzema — and the Frenchman appears to be getting better with age.
Los Blancos’ long-serving No9 is enjoying the best scoring season of his career, racking up 34 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions.
Over the last few years, Benzema has come to the fore as Real’s main man — a status he has firmly cemented with his prolific output this term.
Ahead of the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash with Chelsea tonight, we focus on one of the world’s most in-form forwards.
On a roll
After finding the net just 12 times in all competitions in 2017-18, Benzema has had four consecutive 20-goal seasons in LaLiga.
This term, he reached 20 before Christmas and has already scored two hat-tricks — most notably the stunning second-half treble which dumped Paris Saint-Germain out in the round of 16.
Should Carlo Ancelotti’s side make it to the Champions League final, they will play 13 more games.
For a player scoring at a rate of pretty much a goal a game, that ought to be plenty to take his total to 40.
Filling the void
When he joined Juventus in the summer of 2018, Ronaldo left sizable boots to fill in the Real attack.
But Benzema wasted no time in stepping up, finishing 2018-19 as Los Blancos’ top scorer with 30 goals across all competitions.
The former Lyon man has added another 91 since, and he has accounted for more than a third of Real’s LaLiga and Champions League goals in the post-Ronaldo era.
In his final season alongside the Portuguese icon, Benzema averaged 0.63 shots on target per 90 minutes in LaLiga as he played the role of foil to his more illustrious attacking partner.
Since the 2017-18 campaign, that figure has risen to 1.64 on-target efforts per 90.
Unsurprisingly, Benzema has also been targeted more by his team-mates. In 2017-18 he was the intended pass recipient 49 times per 90. This term, he is on the receiving end of 59.2 targets a game.
With his third goal against PSG, Benzema moved above Raul into second place on the list of Real’s all-time leading Champions League scorers with 67 goals.
He has been on the scoresheet in five of seven Champions League appearances this term — but he still has some way to go to catch Ronaldo on 105.
However, Benzema could yet end up as top scorer in this season’s edition.
Only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (12) and Sebastian Haller (11) of already-eliminated Ajax have more goals than his eight so far.
The world's best?
Speaking in December, Real boss Ancelotti heaped praise on Benzema for his all-round game.
The Italian said: "I believe he's the world's best attacker because he added great scoring numbers to his great playmaking ability.
"He can score goals like Cristiano Ronaldo or [Erling] Haaland now and he makes the difference."
Ancelotti's assessment bears out in the numbers too — there is more to Benzema’s game than goals alone.
No Real Madrid player has created more big chances (12) in LaLiga this term while only Vinicius Junior (56) has created more chances (50).
Racking up the records
Not only did Benzema’s aforementioned hat-trick against PSG see him leapfrog Raul, it also made him the oldest player to ever score one in the Champions League.
He seems to have been around forever but there are still records to be broken and charts to climb.
Next up? Another league goal will take him past the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano on the list of Real’s all-time LaLiga top scorers — and to within 11 goals of second-placed Raul.
Once maligned, Benzema has now surely secured his spot as one of Real’s all-time greats.