Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: Tabitha Anghel / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP 22:10 p.m., June 04, 2023Karim Benzema is leaving. The French striker announced his departure from Real Madrid on Sunday afternoon, after 14 seasons in the club's jersey. Here are the five highlights of the player's career with the Merengues.
In fourteen seasons at Real Madrid, Karim Benzema, whose departure was announced on Sunday, has had a journey punctuated by memorable goals, sporting successes and achievements. Here are the five highlights of his Madrid career:
His transfer and presentation at the Bernabéu
On 9 July 2009, Benzema, 21, was presented at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in front of 15,000 fans, exactly eight years after Zinedine Zidane's presentation. "I am very happy to play in the same club as my idols Zidane and (Brazilian) Ronaldo," said the Lyonnais who has just left his training club and his hometown and concludes with a "Hala Madrid!"
The same summer, Florentino Perez, now president, will attract Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso. This is the beginning of the adventure of "Benz" in Spain.
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His goal at Gerland against Lyon
On 22 February 2011 in Lyon, Real met OL but Benzema did not start in the first leg. He entered the game and scored his 100th professional goal, in front of his family and loved ones. The match ended in a draw (1-1). In the return, Benzema scored the second merengue goal (3-0) and left in the 85th, to the ovation of the Bernabéu.
Yet under Jose Mourinho, who arrived in 2010, the beginnings were difficult. The Portuguese first relegated him to the end of the bench, behind Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria. Then in early 2011, the striker gained playing time following Higuain's herniated disc.
The treble in the Champions League
On 26 May 2018, in Kiev against Liverpool, Benzema became the first Frenchman to score in a Champions League final since Zidane in 2002. After a hooked start in the 51st minute, Benzema burst in to counter a catastrophic hand restart from Loris Karius and open the scoring.
With "Zizou" as coach, the "White House" won the match 3-1 and its third Champions League in a row after 2016 and 2017. For Benzema, it is the fourth, with "the Decima" won under Carlo Ancelotti in 2014. He became the most successful Frenchman in C1, with his teammate Raphaël Varane.
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The epic 2022
On 28 May 2022, at the Stade de France, Benzema won his fifth Champions League. He is only one continental title away from merengue legend Paco Gento. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, "KB9" has become the boss of the merengue attack. He scored more goals and even ended up inheriting the captain's armband in 2021, after Sergio Ramos left for Paris.
His stunning performances push Didier Deschamps to recall him to the France team for Euro-2020 (postponed to 2021), after five years of banishment related to the sextape affair. Benzema shines during this Champions League campaign where Madrid string together epic matches. In the eighth round of the second leg, he scored a hat-trick against PSG. In the quarters against Chelsea, a hat-trick in the first leg and the goal of qualification in the return, in extra time. In the semi-final against Manchester City, a double in the first leg and the penalty of qualification for the final in extra time in the return.
The Ballon d'Or
On October 17, 2022, at almost 35 years old, Benzema is the fifth French Ballon d'Or, the most prestigious of individual awards. Best player of the best team in Europe, champion of Spain and Europe, top scorer of La Liga, Real, Champions League and the France team during the season, Karim Benzema is on a cloud. With 47 goals and 14 assists in 2021-2022, he had the best statistical season of his career.
On 10 August 2022, he overtook Raul and became the second highest scorer in Real's history behind Cristiano Ronaldo (450 goals), totaling 354 goals.