Why brilliant Benzema finally deserves Ballon d'Or recognition 🏆

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Alex Mott

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With the clock ticking down towards half time and Real Madrid struggling to break down a resolute Espanyol defence, Los Blancos were in need of a hero.

They found it, as they have a lot recently, in Karim Benzema.

His outrageous, no-look, back-heel assist for Casemiro was an astonishing piece of skill and summed up everything about how well the Frenchman is playing right now.

When Cristiano Ronaldo left abruptly in 2018 it left the capital club in crisis and allowed a power vacuum to arise within the squad.

With Zinedine Zidane also leaving that summer, it’s safe to say that Real Madrid were in a downward spiral that was only worsened by the hiring of Julen Lopetegui as coach.

They suffered their worst ever start to a LaLiga season under the former national team coach and went almost five games without scoring a single goal – the longest barren run in their entire history.

It was a dark time for the grandest of European superpowers as they finished a mammoth 19 points behind runaway winners Barcelona.

The return of Zidane to the dugout and two years of reworking and remodelling have finally bore fruit however, with the 13-time European champions back to something approaching their very best.

That, in large part, has been down to Benzema’s reemergence as a central goalscorer and main focal point of their attack.

Benzema, of course, has always been that kind of player, but was intelligent enough to play second-fiddle to Ronaldo whilst the Portuguese record-breaker was treading the boards at Santiago Bernabéu.

The Frenchman was always the understudy whilst Ronaldo was around and played that part to perfection. Still operating in a central position but vacating spaces brilliantly for his team mate to exploit.

It helped Ronaldo become Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer and an unprecedented three Champions League trophies in a row.

Now though, the 32-year-old is back operating in that old-fashioned No.9 role, much like he did during his Lyon days.

It’s been 10 years since then, but Benzema has reacted like a duck to water.

His finishing instincts are still first-rate and now he’s actually in areas to score more goals.

There have been 17 of them in LaLiga this season including vital ones against Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Real Sociedad.

Only Lionel Messi has more this term, whilst his goals-per-minute ratio of 111 the best in the division.

It’s an astonishing return to form for Benzema and, should Real Madrid win the title come July, deserves recognition.

There are plenty of names in contention for next season’s Ballon d’Or and Benzema definitely deserves to be one of them.

His all-round game has been nothing short of extraordinary this season, almost single-handedly dragging Real Madrid to wins at times.

He’s been undervalued by the public at large for too long – at 32, now is his time.