The French striker leaves Real Madrid as a legend and with a unique list of achievements

Karim, Karim, Karim Benzema

photo_camera REUTERS/JUAN MEDINA - Karim Benzema

Benzema leaves Real Madrid. There is a generation of Blancos fans who know no other nine, who learned on Sunday morning that Benzema was mortal and could retire or go to another team. Kids who asked who will now be the goalscorer in white and who will wear the captain's armband.  

There is another generation that says goodbye to a beloved 9, but also to a striker who did not honour the number he wore on his back for many seasons. Who spent years in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo and who was asked for his goals in the absence of the Portuguese. Benzema was that striker who didn't set foot in the box, who moved between the lines to the delight of his team-mates, who made his job easier, but who got on the fans' nerves because nobody finished off the play.  

Benzema was the whim of Florentino Pérez. A businessman who does not know about football, but to whom something told him that the Frenchman from Olympique Lyon, who was a bogeyman for Los Blancos in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century, had something in his boots. In 2009 he set foot in the Santiago Bernabéu for the first time and did not stop until 2023 with five Champions League titles and four La Liga titles, among others in which he was always a protagonist. 

AP/MANU FERNÁNDEZ - El presidente del Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez
AP/MANU FERNÁNDEZ - Florentino Pérez

Benzema has been the only player for whom Florentino Pérez has lost his temper in a box. It was in 2011 against Lyon after a goal by the Frenchman that did not mean much to the club. Behind that gesture was the president looking after his favourite player and making a challenge to all those who wanted Benzema out of Real Madrid for not being a striker of the past. 

Real Madrid have gone much further with Benzema than with any other player. Only Pepe's gesture towards Casquero equalled the protection of one of their own. The French striker had a difficult time in his country with two serious accusations. He was acquitted because the alleged underage girl he was with was only looking for fame. In the second case, that of Valbuena, the matter went as far as the Presidency of the Government itself, which did not get too involved in his defence. Benzema spent six years away from France because of this case and was never loved in his country. Accusations of racism and an awkward return made the striker focus more on Real Madrid in recent years.

AFP/FRANCK FIFE - Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema receives the Ballon d'Or award during the France 2022 Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris on October 17, 2022

The great Benzema will be remembered for Champions League number 14 for Los Blancos. Six superb games between the round of 16 and the semi-final against City that the team rounded off with their favourite trophy in Paris. The goal against Liverpool in another great final, the 13th in Kiev, with the mistake by Karius that only Benzema expected, also remains in the memory.  

It opens up a question mark that will not be easily answered by the Real Madrid presidency during the summer. Finding a 9 is an impossible mission in Europe. Harry Kane seems to be the one, but nobody should expect a new Benzema because players like the Frenchman do not exist. 

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