Karim Benzema, channelling Tupac Shakur, is operating like no other in La Liga right now

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Football Espana

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Karim Benzema is in a moment. The Frenchman scored a hat-trick for Real Madrid last night against Celta Vigo in La Liga, in the first game back at the renovated Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid won the game 5-2, meaning Benzema’s three goals – in the 24th, 46th and 87th minutes – proved the ultimate difference.

Benzema is finally beginning to get the respect a man of his longevity has earned. He was recalled by the French national team for Euro 2020 after a six-year absence due to a personal dispute with coach Didier Deschamps. His form for Madrid was simply too good, however, so Deschamps invited him back into the fold. He was proved right; even though France underachieved as a collective, Benzema scored four goals in four games.

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Last night’s star turn means that Benzema has now scored five goals and provided four assists – nine direct goal contributions – in Madrid’s first four La Liga games this season, showing he has the potential to match or even better last season’s outlay of 23 goals and nine assists in 34 appearances, a figure only Lionel Messi – who now plies his trade in Paris Saint-Germain blue – and Gerard Moreno surpassed. If you have a hunch who’ll win this season’s Pichichi, or indeed La Liga outright, see here for an online casino with the best and most competitive odds.

Benzema’s contribution has skyrocketed since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in the summer of 2018. Until then, his Madrid career was always seen as a role-player, the Scottie Pippin to Cristiano’s Michael Jordan. His presence enabled the Portuguese and Gareth Bale to wreak havoc, but he was always seen as the least-important of that phenomenal BBC attacking triumvirate.

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Since Cristiano left, however, Benzema has become the main man. In the Portuguese’s final two seasons at the Bernabeu Benzema scored a combined total of 16 goals; in the two full seasons since he’s left, he’s scored 44. The way he plays – not with blistering pace or anything overtly showy – leads to him being underrated and unappreciated. But he’s on a different level to any other forward player in La Liga right now, getting better with age like a fine wine.

Benzema often posts images of Tupac Shakur on social media, clearly enamoured with the work of the late artist. Shakur spoke for the marginalised – something Benzema can appreciate as he grew up in Lyon as a Frenchman of strong Algerian heritage – and operated with a singularity of purpose where he channelled his pain and emotion into his art. Benzema, entering the autumn of a magnificent career, is beginning to do the same, overcoming the personal issues of the past and beginning to operate like no other.

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