Since 31 March, Karim Benzema has been the only player who is scoring goals for Real Madrid. This month alone he’s scored eight – including the three he scored in Sunday’s meeting with Athletic Club. He’s scored eight goals one after the other, not once being interrupted by an occasional one from his team mates. For one player alone to providing all the goals over a period of time has never happened before at Real Madrid. The closest was when [Juan] Monjardín, Santillana and [Fernando] Morientes respectively had a run of seven goals in years gone by. It speaks volumes about the formidable moment of form Benzema is in – as much it does about the lack of enthusiasm of those around him, among whom Zidane continues to search (like Diogenes with a lighthouse in broad daylight) for players he can count on next season. Real Madrid’s proposed squad overhaul will leave victims – some of whom have already been singled out, like Gareth Bale for instance, at the other end of the scale to a player who is the last one facing a cross-examination, the newly-reborn Benzema.
Now, Benzema is carrying the team
What a turnaround he’s had! It wasn’t that long ago that Benzema was just a passenger, without a jot of interest in either the route or the mechanical problems the bus might have. He had no need to – the driver - Cristiano Ronaldo, would take on all of the responsibility. Now Karim’s firmly at the wheel and will even fish his tool box out if the machine grinds to halt. That lazy, indifferent player of other seasons - blessed with an exquisite touch but little ambition, who appeared to the golden boy of those in power, who would turn up for training looking overweight (a couple of time he confessed to having to shed five kilos)… is now an ambitious, responsible player – whose face reflects joy when things are going well and disappointment when they aren’t. The only downside is that he hasn’t been able to find the net in the big games this season. But the way he has responded this season deserves credit.
Conclusions from Sunday's game
At the other extreme is Gareth Bale, who hasn’t stepped up his game since Cristianoleft for Italy – if anything, his game has gone into decline. On Sunday, he came on midway through the second half to whistles from the stands, missed a great chance to put his name on the scoresheet but then trapped a loose ball to set up Benzema for the third goal. Bale came on as part of a double substitution with Isco who unfortunately, looks likes he will be one of players to be sold in the summer. If Eden Hazard ends up joining Madrid, if Brahim starts making a claim for a place in the side, Isco could end up being the big casualty of the season. Toni Kroos is also starting to look like he might be offloaded – that could become a reality if Madrid bring in Pogba and Zidane decides, as we expect, to go for a 4-4-2 set-up within which Modric would be more protected. That’s more or less what we could take from Madrid’s performance on Sunday. As for Athletic, nothing – they were surprisingly very disappointing.