Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema made his return for the club against Sevilla at the weekend after a hamstring injury had ruled him out for the previous four fixtures.
The Spanish side brushed aside their opponents 4-0, with the Frenchman scoring the opener and his overall contribution to the match outlined his importance to Zinedine Zidane's side.
Benzema has been the centre of controversy in recent months after his sex tape scandal with French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, as well as recently having to be a witness in a money-laundering case in his native France.
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However, from a footballing perspective, this season has arguably been the Frenchman's finest in his career. The striker has become a prolific focal point in the white shirt of Madrid and without him and his goals, they simply are not the same team.
ONE OF THE FINEST NUMBER NINES IN FOOTBALL
During his absence, Madrid deployed talisman Cristiano Ronaldo in the number nine role, an experiment which was not a disaster, but still didn't produce the same results.
The Portuguese superstar does drift more into the centre these days, but his input is still more lethal and prolific from the left - a role which has cemented his legendary status in the history of football.
Benzema is the number nine which turns this Madrid side into a different offensive animal. His intelligence and movement provide essential benefits for the whole team and his natural finishing ability is something which very few possess in the footballing world at the moment.
24 goals in 26 games in all competitions, with 20 of those coming in La Liga, show just how lethal he has become in Spain. Barcelona's front three and Ronaldo are ahead of him in the Pichichi standings, but they have all featured in four or more league games than the Frenchman.
Despite these impressive figures, Benzema still remains criminally underrated with much of the limelight being shined on the much more expensive members of Madrid's front three, the BBC. However, without the Frenchman there in support, the other two simply are not the same.
A VITAL COG IN THE BBC MACHINE
Benzema provides a lot of services to the two men supporting him - Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. His intelligent runs which regularly keep defenders occupied often frees up added space for the enigmatic duo and allows them to further penetrate opponents.
As well as this, he makes himself a viable target for which to be supplied, something that even Ronaldo cannot perform to the same standard because he is not a natural number nine.
Benzema's goal on Sunday night against Sevilla supports this point, he made some space in the box for Bale to find him with a pinpoint cross and then expertly half-volleyed home past a helpless Sergio Rico.
The finish was, of course, world class, but the natural movement of a centre forward seemed to give Bale, in particular, an extra incentive to rediscover his outstanding wing-play, one of his finest traits.
Essentially, Benzema's inclusion allows Madrid to thrive at their peak offensively; a natural centre-forward is required for a team such as them. At 28, he is entering the peak of his career and if Madrid are to have success in the foreseeable future, their French striker could have a big say in it.
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