Karim Benzema: Real Madrid striker’s assist of the season contender highlights his legacy

Ciaran Vance discusses Karim Benzema’s career at Real Madrid as striker provides assist of the season contender against Espanyol in La Liga.

Reminiscing over the Real Madrid squad which dominated Europe for the majority of the last 10 years and certain names spring to mind. Cristiano Ronaldo for being, well, Cristiano Ronaldo; Sergio Ramos for the consistent leadership; Gareth Bale for that Champions League final goal. Another mainstay of that squad, one less prominent, is Karim Benzema.

Benzema is currently all over Twitter for what is perhaps the assist of the season in La Liga, which Real Madrid now sit atop. Late on Sunday night, Benzema ran on to a header from Ramos – playing at the edge of the opposition box, naturally – and appeared to be running out of play. His only option appeared to be to shield the ball, take it towards the corner flag and look for some back-up. Except that wasn’t his only option.

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The Frenchman back-heeled the ball, on the half-volley, through Espanyol defender Bernardo’s legs at such an angle that it took out another player – and the goalkeeper – and left Casemiro with an open goal.

Eagle-eyed football fanatics were quick to point out the assist was reminiscent of former Los Blanco Guti, a wonderfully talented passer of the ball who could see a through ball through the back of his head. Literally.

Way back in the 2009/10 campaign, Guti was through on goal with only the goalkeeper standing between him and the goal when he swung his foot forward as if to shoot before back-heeling the ball to a teammate who then had an open goal in front of him.

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The man who scored the goal, more than 10 years ago, was Karim Benzema.

Signed in the same transfer window as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, Benzema joined a team with a fickle fanbase that does not hesitate in making its feelings known and became a permanent focal point of the attack.

In his 10 seasons in Spain, Benzema has scored more than 20 goals every year in all competitions except for two. Almost as impressive is his assists record, averaging 9.2 a season (including this campaign so far) with a peak of 20 assists in the 2012/13 season.

A decade in Madrid is not a milestone many players reach. According to Transfermarkt, Benzema is the third-longest serving player in the current Madrid squad behind Ramos and Marcelo. Signed by Manuel Pellegrini, Benzema has played under seven managers and has been the team’s main striker since he forced his way into José Mourinho’s team in the 2010/11 campaign.

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This season’s goals have seen the Frenchman leapfrog Ferenc Puskás into fifth on Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorers. He will be 33 this December, however confirmation of a contract extension taking him to 2022 has given him the opportunity to surpass Santillana’s 290 goals tally and move behind just three legends of the club in Alfredo Di Stéfano, Raúl and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wherever Benzema ends up on the list of top goal scorers for the club, his legacy is confirmed. His medal collection, which includes four Champions League medals, ensures that.

However, Sunday night’s assist guaranteed Benzema will be remembered for more than just putting the ball in the back of the net.

Follow Ciaran on Twitter at @ciaranmvance

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