Until last night only six players in Real Madrid’s history had scored 200 goals for the club. Now there is a seventh.
Karim Benzema can sit at the same table as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Santillana, Hugo Sanchez, Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo and no one can question his right to be there. Goal statistics don’t lie. They can’t really be argued about.
It has taken him 429 games to achieve the double century but a goal every other game for a player who was always more a second striker than a centre forward, for all that he has worn the number nine shirt for the best part of a decade, is still hugely impressive. Just surviving ten years at Madrid is an extraordinary feat in itself.
Benzema celebrates with Gareth Bale after bringing up goal number 200 for Real Madrid
The goals-per-games ratio compares unfavourably with Ronaldo who scored 450 in 450 matches but looks good alongside Raul who scored 323 but in 741 games. Benzema might never be held in the same esteem by Real Madrid supporters as Raul but he’ll accept that. He wore the captain’s armband in Plzen when he scored goal number 200 and 201 that is something else that nobody expected to happen when he signed in 2009.
He has been criticized in each of his ten seasons – sometimes by chronically dissatisfied spectators at the Santiago Bernabeu, and other times by former players — one who knows what it’s like to be an outsider expected to score the goals at one of Spain’s big clubs.
Gary Lineker never actually criticized the French forward, he just suggested he might be a ‘tad over-rated’. Benzema seemed to bite on that particular commentary and he didn’t like a barb received from his coach Jose Mourinho in 2010 either.
When Mourinho referred to Benzema as a ‘cat’ in 2010 during his first season in charge he was not talking about his agility, or his nine lives.
The French striker took advantage of a Loris Karius mistake in the Champions League final
Benzema wheels away after putting Real Madrid ahead in the Club World Cup Final in 2016
Mourinho’s complaint: ‘If you don’t have your dog (Gonzalo Higuain was injured) to go hunting but you have a cat you go with the cat,’ was his way of shaking the player from his slumber.
Benzema in 2010 was cat-like; prone to sleeping in the sunshine. In another Mourinho rant he complained that training could not start at 10am because Benzema would still be asleep.
Benzema revealed in a Canal+ interview last year: ‘We spoke for an hour and I told him what I had to say.
‘I am a footballer and you are my coach. I respect you and you should respect me. After that conversation there was no more talk of cats and dogs’.
Benzema celebrates in front of Real Madrid fans after scoring in the Supercopa final in 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 450 matches for Real Madrid, an incredible record
Raul has also broke the 200 goal mark for Real, grabbing 323 in total but in 741 games
Benzema’s body language has always been on the languid side. He took a time to learn Spanish and found it hard to defend himself against those who doubted him at Madrid.
Last night at the Doosan Arena he was asked if Santiago Solari should be given the Real Madrid job full-time. In his now word-perfect Spanish, he replied: ‘Yes, why not?’
The Argentine coach will be Benzema’s seventh manager, just like the other six it appears he will be one of the first names on the team-sheet. He has been ever-present in the Solari era so far and has three goals in those three games.
Benzema’s first goal for the Spanish giants came in a 5-0 thumping of Xerez back in 2009
The stories about him being replaced will continue this summer and now that he is 30 and with Neymar still a Madrid target they could finally come to fruition but the fact that other players love to play alongside him might string his Madrid career out a little longer.
Cristiano Ronaldo always wanted him in the team, who is to say if Neymar arrives he will not want the same. Last night’s first goal was worthy of Neymar – the slalom dribble inside the penalty box and the nutmeg on the goalkeeper.
He was bought from Lyon in part because president Florentino Perez saw him as a new Ronaldo Nazario.
They are polar opposite in terms of explosive penalty box presence but Ronaldo, just like a lot of other brilliant forwards who have worn the white Real Madrid shirt, is not in the 200 club – Benzema is.