Karim Benzema played well against Napoli. He required a good game and it came at the perfect moment, when it mattered. Benzema is a curious player who, as many others do, sometimes frustrates and sometimes dazzles me with his game. It’s difficult to define him as a player, because he is not a pure number nine or an attacking midfielder. In Argentina they have invented a description for players with Benzema’s characteristics: a “nine-and-a-half.” That is how best to describe Benzema and when he is in the mood and the game lends itself to it, he gets the front line moving and that leads to shots on goal. Against Napoli he scored one, hit the post with another and drew some smart stops out of Pepe Reina.
Another piece of good news was Cristiano Ronaldo, who displayed another aspect to his game. He did not play up front, but on the wings. There is nothing new in that but it was a novelty to see him thinking outside the box. This was not the Ronaldo with no other object than to run headlong towards the goal. He played with 360º vision, seeking his teammates and picking them out with passes. He linked up with Benzema on several occasions and also with Toni Kroos, when he provided the ball for the Germany international to score. Ronaldo burst down the flank to the byline and had the range to find Kroos, who was arriving at the edge of the area. It is good for Madrid that Ronaldo is broadening his horizons and adding new facets to his playing style, now that he is no longer supersonic.
And Casemiro scored a wonderful goal. After the game he explained that Zinedine Zidane asks him to practice long shots in training. Now that Ronaldo’s goals are starting to become missed they have to made up for elsewhere, and the Brazilian is one outlet. Zidane has been encouraging him to work on that aspect, which is discerning of the coach. Casemiro can add goals to his main sphere of influence, in recovering the ball and initiating attacks. And to make the occasional foul, when it is not detrimental to the team: fouls that costs him few cards because he carries them out with certain scrupulousness. He doesn’t make a big thing out of it, he isn’t theatrical and he doesn’t do it arrogantly. Neither does he hang around to argue the toss or to get into a shouting match. He simply trots off to find the ideal position to defend the free kick. He’s a clever lad.