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Karim Benzema operates as a nine and a half for Real Madrid


One day I came across the concept of the nine and a half in El Gráfico. It was used to describe a forward who plays like a nine and is also like a number 10, more of a playmaker. From the pure nine we expect goals scored in the penalty area; the 10 uses vision, passing and links the play. But the nine and a half is the forward who performs both roles in one. El Gráfico created this term for Mario Kempes, the Argentine striker who had spells with Valencia and River Plate among others. More a goalscorer in the box, he also had the ability to operate as a number 10. I liked the idea of the nine and a half.

That’s Karim Benzema, Real Madrid’s talisman. Benzema sees a pass, he creates, but he also knows how to perform in the box, not only to burst in, but to be there, and to score goals of tremendous variety. He scores headers, he scores on the half-turn, he finishes with both feet. He is an excellent nine that does so much that he can also be described as a 10. Benzema has the support of Vinicius on the left. The Brazilian understands Benzema’s ability to operate in both roles, creating play and scoring chances. Vinicius’ movement off the left gives Benzema another excuse to play in the hole.

Benzema was always a bit of a nine and a half, but a worse number nine (fewer goals) and a worse number 10 (less involvement). A very classy but passive forward, playing in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow. More of a great bullfighter than a great footballer. Let me explain. In bullfighting you don’t count the ears, you comment on them and there are artistic flashes, in which he always provided plenty, like Guti. In football, that’s not enough. You need consistency, presence, and you should never leave your team feeling like they are only playing with 10 men. And goals are counted. Benzema is now the perfect nine and a half. I dare say he plays the role better than Kempes himself.


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