Karim Benzema, winner of 2022 Ballon d’Or and one of the world’s best strikers | Sunday Observer

Karim Benzema, winner of 2022 Ballon d’Or and one of the world’s best strikers

30 April, 2023
Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema is a professional footballer who captains La Liga club Real Madrid. He is the current winner of the prestigious 2022 Ballon d’Or, becoming the second-oldest at 34 years and 302 days. His record 27 trophies make him the most decorated Frenchman in football history.

Benzema holds the Guinness World Record of 2021 for the player with the most consecutive seasons in the UEFA Champions League, having qualified and played in the competition without interruption since 2005.

A creative and prolific forward, he is regarded as one of the best strikers of all time. He earned 97 caps, including scoring in three and appearing in four major tournaments, and ranks as France’s fifth-highest all-time top goal scorer. Karim Benzema is Real Madrid’s all-time second-highest goal scorer and top assist provider.

Benzema has won 24 trophies with Real Madrid, including four La Liga, two Copa del Rey and five UEFA Champions League titles.A French international, Benzema won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and at 19, made his senior debut for France in 2007.

He has been named French Player of the Year by France Football four times in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2021. For his performances in 2021 and 2022, Benzema was awarded the UEFA Player of the Year.

Player Profile

Benzema is regarded as one of the best forwards of his generation. He is a creative, skilful, quick, agile, and prolific forward, who is good in the air and capable of playing off the shoulders of the last defender, and has been described as an “immensely talented striker” who is “strong and powerful” with either foot, as well as his head, despite being naturally right footed.

In 2021, his manager Ancelotti described him “the best striker in the world.” An atypical number 9, he is also capable of playing in several other offensive positions, and has been used on the wing, or even as a playmaker behind the main striker, either in the number 10 role as an attacking midfielder, or as a deep-lying forward.

In addition to his goal scoring, Benzema is known for his willingness and ability to drop into deeper or wider positions, and either link-up play with midfielders, or use his strength and technical ability to hold up the ball with his back to goal to provide assists for teammates, courtesy of his vision, creativity, passing, and eye for the final ball.

Benzema ranks as Madrid’s all-time second-highest goal scorer and top assist provider, with 328 goals and 104 assists respectively. In 2018, he took on a new role as the club’s main striker, playing with his back to goal less frequently, and instead receiving the ball facing the goal and taking more touches inside the penalty area.

Birth and Growth

Benzema was born on December 19, 1987 in Lyon to French nationals. He is the third youngest in the family and grew up with eight siblings in Bron, an eastern suburb of Lyon. His grandfather, Da Lakehal Benzema, lived in the village of Tigzirt in the northern Algeria before migrating to Lyon, where he eventually settled in the 1950s. His father, Hafid, was born in Tigzirt, while his mother, Wahida Djebbara, was born and raised in Lyon.

He joined Bron Terraillon SC at the age of eight. He was nicknamed Coco by friends after he scored two goals in an Under-10 match against the Lyon youth academy. Benzema quickly ascended up the youth categories. At Under-16 level, Benzema scored 38 goals in the Championnat National des 16 ans, the domestic league for under-16 youth players in France.

Benzema joined the team ahead of the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Championship that was played on home soil. On his tournament debut, Benzema scored the opening goal in a 3–1 win over Northern Ireland. His lone other appearance in the competition was in a 1–0 group stage win over Spain as France went on to win the tournament defeating the same team in the final.

Benzema was a regular starter in the team at Under-18 level. He made his debut with the team at a local tournament in the Czech Republic. Benzema scored his first goal at under-18 level in the competition against Poland in the team’s final group stage match. In the final against the hosts, he scored the opening goal in a 2–0 win as France were declared champions of the competition.

On September 30, 2004, Benzema scored a goal in France’s 3–0 win over Norway. In the match against Russia, he scored a double in a 3–1 victory. Due to France winning the 2004 U17 European title, the Under-18 team was allowed participation in the 2005 Meridian Cup and Benzema played in all four matches scoring five goals as France were crowned champions.

Benzema scored two goals in a 7–0 victory over Cameroon. In the next match against Sierra Leone, he responded by scoring a goal in a shutout victory over Nigeria and netting another double in a 4–1 win against Egypt. On May 19, 2005, in the team’s final match of the season against Slovakia, Benzema scored all four goals in a 4–1 victory. He finished the Under-18 campaign with 18 appearances and a team-high 14 goals.

In the 2006 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, the team opened the campaign with two friendly matches against Norway. Over the course of the two matches, Benzema scored one goal, which came in the first match, a 4–0 win.

In the first round of qualification for the UEFA-sanctioned tournament, he scored his only goal in the final group match a 2–0 victory against Austria.

In the Elite Round, France were placed alongside Scotland, Bulgaria, and Belarus. In the opening game against Bulgaria, Benzema scored a double converting a penalty and scoring in play as France won 4–0. Both of his goals were scored within a minute of each other. After surprisingly drawing 0–0 with Belarus, France faced Scotland in the final group match. The match ultimately finished 1–1 and, France were eliminated on points.

Benzema made his Under-21 debut for Les Espoirs in the team’s first match following the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship against Belgium. He featured in qualification matches for the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and appeared as a starter and substitute in the first leg and second leg, respectively. His appearance against Israel was his last and he finished his Under-21 career with five appearances.

Benzema has two children, a daughter Melia, born on February 3, 2014, with his girlfriend Chloe de Launay and a son Ibrahim, born on May 5, 2017, with his girlfriend Cora Gauthier.For the FIFA series, Benzema was chosen as an ambassador of the American video game publisher Electronic Arts.

International Career

In 2007, Benzema joined the team for a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying match against Lithuania and a friendly against Austria. He made his international debut on March 28, 2007 against Austria, appearing as a half-time substitute and scoring the only goal of the match. On October 13, Benzema scored a double in a 6–0 win against the Faroe Islands.

He was named to participate in UEFA Euro 2008 and made his debut in the opening match against Romania. Ahead of qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he switched to the number 10 shirt having previously wore the number 9.

In the first match, Benzema scored a goal in a 3–2 win over Sweden. Then scored another goal in a 3–1 victory against Tunisia and converted the only goal in a 1–0 win over Turkey. He scored his first World Cup qualification goals in victories over the Faroe Islands and Austria in October 2009.

Benzema led the team in scoring in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2012, netting three goals in wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, and Albania. Benzema scored the opening goal in France’s 2–1 win over England and scored the only goal for France in a 1–0 win against Brazil.

After appearing regularly in qualifying for Euro 2012, Benzema scored two goals in a 4–0 shutout win over Estonia. At Euro 2012, Benzema started the team’s opening match against England, which ended in a 1–1 draw.

In the team’s ensuing group stage match against the Ukraine, he assisted both the goals in a 2–0 win.

On October 11, 2013, Benzema scored his first goal for France since June 2012 against Australia.

In that match which France won 6–0, Benzema scored France’s sixth and final goal in the 50th minute.

In the 2014 World Cup qualification against Ukraine on November 19, 2013, Benzema scored France’s second goal to level the score at 2–2. France would eventually win the second leg against Ukraine 3–0 to advance to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil with a 3–2 aggregate score line.

Benzema was named in France’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the first match, a 3–0 win against Honduras, he scored a goal in each half and was named by FIFA as Man of the Match. In the second group fixture, he scored and had a penalty saved in a 5–2 defeat of Switzerland.

On May 18, 2021, Benzema was officially included in France’s squad for UEFA Euro 2020, his first call-up to the national team in over five years. He made his first appearance on June 2, in a 3–0 home win over Wales, in a friendly warm-up match before the tournament.

On June 23, 2021, he scored a brace in a 2–2 draw against Portugal, to be his first goals in the European Championship. He subsequently scored another brace in France’s round-of-16 match against Switzerland. With four goals in as many games, Benzema won the Euro 2020 bronze boot.

In the 2021 UEFA Nations League semi-final, Benzema scored France’s first goal in the second half as they came from behind to defeat Belgium 3–2. He overtook Zidane in the France scoring records as he scored his 32nd goal for Le Blues to become the 6th top scorer in their history.

In the Final, he scored the temporary equaliser as France went on to clinch the title for the first time with a 2–1 victory over Spain and he was named “Player of the Match” by UEFA for his performance in the final.

With two goals, he was the joint–top scorer of the Nations League Finals, and won the bronze boot.It was Benzema’s first trophy with France’s senior team. Benzema scored his first goals in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a brace in an 8–0 win over Kazakhstan as France booked their place for Qatar 2022. His brace made him Les Bleus’ fifth all-time top scorer with 35 goals.

He was included in France’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, however Benzema missed the World Cup due to a thigh injury.Despite not taking part, Benzema was still awarded the FIFA World Cup 2022 silver medal. Benzema announced his international retirement in December 2022.

Club Career

In 2008, he was named the league’s Player of the Year and in the Team of the Year having finished as the league’s top goal scorer and winning his fourth league title and first Coupe de France. In 2009, Benzema was the subject of a then-French record football transfer when he joined Real Madrid in a deal worth €35 million.

In 2009, Lyon reached an agreement with Spanish club Real Madrid for the transfer of Benzemaat €35 million, rising to €41 million based on incentives, a six-year deal.

Notably being part of a highly rated trio, Benzema together with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo were integral to four Champions League wins from 2014 to 2018.

In 2014, Benzema won France Football’s award for French Player of the Year for the third time. On March 1, 2018 he made his 500th appearance for Real Madrid in a 2–0 home win over Barcelona, becoming the fourteenth player in the club’s history to achieve this milestone.

On October 27, he scored an acrobatic over-the-head goal in a 2–2 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Champions League, to become the second player in history after Lionel Messi to score in 16 consecutive Champions League seasons.

On April 21, 2019 Benzema scored a brace and assisted another in a 3–0 away win at Cádiz, which meant he scored against all 35 teams he has played against in La Liga. Wearing the armband, Benzema was the first Madrid captain to score a hat-trick since Raul Gonzalez Blancoin 2008.

Benzema’s brace allowed him to become only the fourth Madrid player in history to score 200 La Liga goals. On September 28, Benzema became the first player in history to score in 17 consecutive Champions League seasons.

On October 22, Benzema scored Madrid’s 1000th Champions League goal at the Bernabéu against Shakhtar Donetsk. On March 9, he scored a hat-trick within 17 minutes in a remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16.

At the age of 34, Benzema became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League.

On March 14, Benzema scored a brace in a La Liga match against Mallorca to become all-time top French goal scorer with 413 goals. Benzema became only the second player (after Cristiano Ronaldo) to score back-to-back hat-tricks in successive Champions League knockout matches.

On April 30, 2022, he helped Real Madrid clinch their 35th Spanish title with a goal in a 4–0 win against Espanyol. On May 4, he scored a decisive goal from the penalty spot in extra time in the second leg against Manchester City and helped Real Madrid reach their 17th European Cup final.

By the end of the 2021/22 La Liga season, Benzema won his first Pichichi Trophy with 27 goals in 32 matches. He won his fifth Champions League title after a 1–0 win over Liverpool, finishing as top scorer with 15 goals and was named the inaugural Champions League Player of the Season.

Benzema was promoted to captain as the most senior member of the squad.

On August 10, 2022, scoring in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup against Eintracht Frankfurt, he brought his tally to 324 goals to become Real Madrid’s all-time second-highest goal scorer.

He was chosen to IFFHS Men’s World Team in 2022 and was the winner of the Globe Soccer Awards Men’s Player of the Year in 2022. He was also the winner of the Golden Player Man Award in 2022 and Onze d’Or in 2020/21 and 2021/22.

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])