Karim Benzema: How are Real Madrid preparing for life without the French striker?

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Karim Benzema leaves Real Madrid as a legend, arguably one of the greatest players in the club’s history.

It also leaves a huge hole in a team that is in the midst of a radical transformation, with a number of iconic stars being replaced by a new batch of talent.

Following the announcement of the French striker’s departure on Sunday, BBC Sport looks at the legacy of the outgoing Benzema – and the implications of his departure.

All round excellence
After joining from club Lyon as a promising 21-year-old in 2009, Benzema has exceeded expectations by winning five Champions League titles, four La Liga crowns and the 2022 Ballon d’Or, plundering 353 goals along the way to trail only Cristiano Ronaldo. in Los Blancos’ all-time scoring.

That number is even more impressive when you consider that he has had to play a supporting role to Ronaldo for most of his tenure, only to be allowed to step out of the shadows and become the focal point of the attack over the past five seasons.

Indeed, Benzema has averaged 32.2 goals per season since Ronaldo’s departure in 2018, compared to 21.3 during his time alongside the Portuguese ace, clearly showing one of his greatest attributes: willingness and his ability to play for the team when required, rather than chasing personal glory. .

Benzema’s selflessness has also been instrumental in the development of young Brazilian wingers Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo in recent years and sees him leave the club with a combined 138 assists.

In hindsight, he will be remembered as a complete number nine rather than ‘just’ a goalscorer and as someone who could link play elegantly in midfield and effortlessly create chances for others, but also take them himself .

But this season has been tough. Benzema – now 35 – missed the World Cup through injury, was only able to start 23 league games and looked a shadow of his former self in the latter stages of the season, especially in the Champions League semi-final defeat to Manchester. City.

So now he’s leaving, cashing in on his remaining playing days by accepting a reported €200m bid to join Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad. His decision will leave Real with an important summer assignment after Sunday’s season finale at Athletic Bilbao.

Real’s next number nine?
Benzema’s all-round talent will be very difficult to replace and manager Carlo Ancelotti – who is almost certain to stay despite the tempting offer to coach Brazil’s national team – currently has no viable alternatives.

Rodrigo has been tested as a mobile ‘false nine’ at times, but looks much more comfortable in his usual position on the right, Eden Hazard has effectively been written off after four disastrous seasons in Spain (seven goals in 76 appearances) and the team Only the other genuine centre-forward, Mariano Diaz, has received just 163 minutes from Ancelotti in all competitions this season.

So reinforcements will have to be recruited and Espanyol target Joselu – formerly of Stoke City and Newcastle – has been heavily linked after scoring 16 league goals for the relegated Catalan club this season.

But Joselu was meant to rotate with Benzema, not replace him, and the club will surely be forced to look for a more high-profile heir to the Frenchman’s number nine shirt.

Chelsea’s Kai Havertz, Italian title winners Napoli’s Victor Osimen and Tottenham captain Harry Kane have been linked, as has Roberto Firmino who is looking for a new challenge after leaving Liverpool.

However, the number one choice could again be long-term target Kylian Mbappe.

Despite publicly rejecting the Spanish giants to stay at Paris Saint-Germain last summer, rumors that Mbappe will eventually end up at the Bernabeu have refused to go away. He recently claimed he was ready to see out the final year of his contract in the French capital, but Benzema’s swift exit could see Real president Florentino Perez try to persuade a quick review.

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