Karim Benzema clearly loves playing in the Europe. While he has been heavily criticised for his performances in LaLiga this season, when competing in the Champions League the Frenchman is a player totally transformed.
Madrid’s number nine won widespread praise for his display against Napoli on Wednesday night, and his goal – which sparked his side’s comeback after conceding early on at the Bernabéu – means he has now scored as many in Europe as he has in the league, needing just half the minutes to do so.
The striker’s bipolarity between competitions has been perfectly symbolised during his previous two matches in the white shirt. Just a few days ago away at Osasusa, Benzema once against looked lethargic and was largely ineffective – something which has been said all too frequently about his appearances in LaLiga during 2016/17. Compare that to the determined and battling Benzema who turned up in Champions League and inspired his team to victory on Wednesday night and the contrast is striking.
The stats, too, support this observation. In the league, Benzema has had fewer shots on target than Sergio León, the striker for the Spanish top flight’s rock-bottom club and Saturday’s opponents, Osasusa. In the Champions League, meanwhile, Benzema is now the tournament’s fourth highest scorer with five goals, trailing only Bayern's Lewandowski (6), PSG's Cavani (7) and Barça's Messi (10).
European pedigree hard to ignore
Although Zinedine Zidane has stated that Real Madrid’s priority this year is to win LaLiga, Benzema’s European pedigree cannot be ignored. And as much as the club claim that they are concentrating primarily on becoming Spanish champions again for the first time since 2012, lifting the European Cup is, and always will be, Los Blancos’ number one objective.
Perhaps that’s the reason, then, why Florentino has decided to offer Benzema a new contract…