?Karim Benzema is ranked 18th in 90min’s European Player of the Year series.
Who knew that the key to unlocking Karim Benzema’s best form at Real Madrid was the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo?
The Frenchman is truly a striker who has been at the centre of one of Real Madrid’s greatest ever generations, sitting as their fourth top goalscorer of all time – ahead of club legends like Ferenc Puskás, Emilio Butragueño and Hugo Sánchez.
But Benzema’s taken his game to a whole new level since Ronaldo’s move away from Real Madrid in 2018 and the 32-year-old has carried the club, who are going through a difficult transition, on his shoulders throughout the calendar year.
The former France international has always been one of the most coveted strikers in European football thanks to his reputation as a well-rounded centre-forward, but Benzema has now scored 35 goals in all competitions in 2019.
And just like with anyone whose been as consistent as Benzema over the last 12 months, he’s not short of a few headline moments from the calendar year.
A Brace in Girona (31/01/2019)
After getting Real Madrid on track to reach the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a strike in their first leg against Girona, Karim Benzema put the game completely out the sight with a first-half brace in Catalonia.
The Frenchman was involved heavily in the build-up play for his opener at the Estadi Montilivi, combining with Dani Carvajal before eventually sending a left-footed strike curling past Gorka Iraizoz and into the far corner of the net.
If Benzema’s first was a good finish, his second was on an entirely different level.
He was involved in the build-up again, but this time Benzema had to get the ball out of his feet and try to curl the ball inside Iraizoz’s far post from a tight angle.
It was a tough angle, but Benzema’s shot flew in off the inside of the post to put Real Madrid into cruise control and into the next round of the Copa del Rey.
Reaching 60 UCL Goals (13/02/2019)
It’s a Champions League tie that’s remembered for completely different reasons, but Real Madrid’s trip to face Ajax in Amsterdam actually saw Benzema join a select group of goalscoring in European football’s elite competition.
It was a tough match, but Benzema popped up with a stunning finish to break the deadlock in their Champions League knockout stage match – his 60th goal in the competition.
Benzema became just the fourth player to ever reach that milestone.
Adding another four to his tally this season, only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Real legend Raúl have scored more in the competition.
Hat-Trick vs Athletic Club (21/04/2019)
Benzema certainly isn’t known for scoring hat-tricks at will for Real Madrid, but for just the fifth time in his career in the Spanish capital, the Frenchman found the back of the net three times at the back end of last season.
It wasn’t any old hat-trick either, as Benzema scored two headers to give Real Madrid what looked like a comfortable 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabéu.
But in added time and with fans already making their way home, Gareth Bale teed up Benzema from 35 yards out to complete his hat-trick – catching Iago Herrerín off his line with what proved to be his last goal of the 2018/19 season.
150 La Liga Goals (24/08/2019)
Not only has Karim Benzema scored more La Liga goals than any other Frenchman, he joined the exclusive 150-goal club in August when he opened the scoring in the 82nd minute of what ended up being a 1-1 draw at home to Valladolid.
It says a lot about the way his year’s gone that he’s already on 160 La Liga goals, level with Luis Aragones and just two goals behind Samuel Eto’o, with one game against Athletic left of 2019. While we’re at it…he’s scored more league goals against the Basque side than any other club. Yoinks.
Real Madrid’s Record Assister (07/12/2019)
It’s not just the all-time goalscoring charts that Benzema’s climbing though – despite the shackles finally being off the Frenchman as a goalscorer, he’s found time this year to go level with Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid’s all-time leading assister.
Without Ronaldo there hoovering up all the goals and forcing Benzema to play second fiddle, he’s still found time and space to make seven goals for his teammates this season alone – and another five at the tail end of the last campaign too.