Real Madrid: Karim Benzema is the best striker of the last decade

Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Manu Reino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Manu Reino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have had the greatest striker of the last decade in their ranks.

With the turn of the century came many changes that range from significant technological advancements to an increased social interest in keto diets. However, what has critically evolved with time is football and more specifically the playing-style of the modern-day striker.

Everyone openly drools over the prospect of a “traditional” or “classic” number nine striker that solely focuses on finishing off chances inside and around the box. Talismen such as Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Luis Suarez, and others are highly touted for their supreme finishing ability and consistent goal count each season.

No doubt these strikers are dominant in their respective leagues each season, scoring tons of goals on their way to league titles and other honors. However, in the last decade when it comes to Europe’s most prestigious competition, these same very dominant finishers fall far short, year after year.

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History has shown us that when the Champions League reaches the knockout stages, teams focus on harnessing their defense and playing as strategic as possible, hence slowing the game down.

This “grind” that the game subsequently goes through upon these stages of the competition is an issue for strikers like Suarez, Ibra, and Lewandowski who are used to solely focusing on finishing plays that have already been set up ideally by talented wingers and midfielders. This is also why these elite finishers score most of their goals via counter-attacks and balls in motion.

Therefore, we must question, why? How do some of the greatest goal-scoring strikers of our generation consistently fall short of the big one, while a “less-traditional” striker like Karim Benzema has won four UCL titles with three of them being on the trot (while also having a very successful goal-scoring record for Real Madrid)?

The answer is both simple and complex. In a nutshell, the game has changed. With the advancement of analytics and technology came the inception of fresh ideas and tactics. The ability to break down positions allowed teams to experiment with players, incorporating them in divergent roles to pinpoint their greatest qualities.

When it comes to the striker position, an interesting change has steadily occurred that has widely gone unnoticed. No longer is the selfish, elite finishing striker the most ideal form of attacker to lead an offensive line. In the past decade, players like Benzema and Roberto Firmino have proven that the playmaking, unselfish center-forward is superior.

Players like Benzema may not score 40 goals every season, but his use of positioning, passing and playmaking has allowed him to be more successful than his fellow high-scoring strikers, even when going against them. Benzema has quietly revolutionized the striker position, and while many fans would still prefer a high-scoring striker over a playmaking forward, teams like Liverpool who have identified the intricacy and built the correct lineup to complement Firmino’s unique ability, have seen great results.

Benzema has still contributed 244 goals and 134 assists for Real Madrid in all competitions across his career, which is no easy task for any striker. However, Benzema’s legendary legacy and historical success at Real Madrid has been built through his special playmaking ability. In many ways, Benzema carries the same elegance that his manager Zinedine Zidane had shown during his days of dominance on the pitch.

The Frenchman has benefitted from playing with some of the best players in the world, however it is no coincidence that he was the main man upfront for four Champions League-winning sides, while Suarez, Ibrahimović, and Lewandowski have a combined total of two titles.

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Benzema has undoubtedly been THE striker of the decade. From his incredible goal + assist tally for Real Madrid to his record-breaking European title triumphs, he has taken a historically stagnant position and has evolved it in such a way, that has produced pure gold. Benzema has started 2020 with another fantastic campaign for Los Blancos, perhaps I’ll be writing about his stupendous greatness 1o years from now.