New coach Carlo Ancelotti arrives without any pre-conceptions. Gonzalo Higuain departs for Napoli. Jose Callejon follows former Argentine teammate to Italy. Madrid not scouring market for another striker. Castilla product Alvaro Morata set to compete for striker’s position. Zinedine Zidane appointed assistant coach to Ancelotti.
If each of the above sentences were separate headlines to different articles, each article, as is clear from their headlines, addresses separate themes relating to Real Madrid. But club them together and read them as a unit and one suddenly realizes the esteemed position Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema finds himself in for the season ahead.
With the departures of Higuain and Callejon, Madrid are only left with young Morata to provide competition to Benzema for the striker’s role in the team. And with the addition of Zidane to the coaching staff, the stage is set for Benzema to establish himself as the undisputed front man to lead Madrid’s attack for years to come.
Benzema has a special relationship with Zidane and regards his fellow countryman as his ‘big brother’. The two get along very well with each other. In fact it was on Zizou’s advice that Madrid president Florentino Perez had brought the then 21-year-old French striker in the summer of 2009 to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zidane has since continued to promote Benzema throughout his stay at the club, even when he is not performing as well as Madrid expects from him.
Speaking out in his support when the striker was failing to hit the target in the opening weeks of last season, Zidane had stated in a press conference:
“Benzema still has to hit top form and be on top of his game again, but the entire world knows that he is a great player.
“I just know that it won’t be long before he fulfils his full potential at last, both for Real Madrid and for France.”
The 41-year-old is convinced that all Benzema needs is Ancelotti’s complete confidence in order to fulfil his huge potential and become one of the most lethal strikers in Europe.
However, in spite of Zizou’s backing, transfer speculation linking his countryman with a move to the Premier League is gaining momentum with reports from Spain indicating Madrid are open to negotiations for the player.
Let us take a look into how such a situation, which would have been impossible a couple of seasons ago, has come to pass by in the Frenchman’s Madrid career.
A few days ago, I had explained how Ozil’s attempts to force the club into agreeing a new deal worth €7 million per year was harming his relationship with Madrid.
A similar situation seems to be engulfing Benzema as well. According to El Confidencial, while the 25-year-old has not fed any false rumours to media outlets, the club is not very happy with the striker’s sulking attitude, both on and off the pitch, due to Madrid’s refusal to offer him a new deal.
Despite scoring a crucial equalizing goal against Real Betis in Madrid’s league opener, Benzema had failed to show any emotions of joy and it is this sulking attitude of the striker, along with poor performances on the field, that is resulting in him entering the bad books of Madrid fans.
The French international, who was once a favourite of Perez, even received the season’s first boos from the Bernabeu and while he was once untouchable, he has now lost his favourable position at the club with El Confidencial even claiming the striker is on the market privately.
Benzema started just 19 La Liga games last season and managed to finish only five of them, whereas in the Champions League he was in the starting line-up a mere six times of which he made it to the final whistle only once.
What is also important to note here is that all this is taking place as Madrid are on the verge of completing a new world record deal of £86million for Gareth Bale, while Spain is reeling under the effects of financial crisis prevalent in the whole of Europe.
Madrid, by leaking to the press that they are willing to let go of players like Benzema and Ozil, are trying to make it look like they are doing so to keep the harmony inside the dressing room intact and protect the club from self-interested players rather than trying to balance their books following their huge outlay on Bale.
Madrid are looking to recoup as much money as possible by selling unproductive and surplus players at the club and Benzema seems to have entered the list of expendables, which also includes Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Fabio Coentrao, whom they could let go provided a club approaches them with the right amount.
Spanish national sports daily Marca, which often acts as Madrid’s unofficial mouthpiece, had recently come out dedicating the first nine pages to Bale, one of which dealt with how the capital club could line up once Bale arrived on the scene.
One of the formations discussed on the paper saw the Welshman paired upfront with Cristiano Ronaldo, with the two swapping positions between themselves, with no room for Benzema. Ancelotti is looking for energy, fluidity and commitment in his attacking line, something that Benzema is clearly lacking at present.
Thus as things stand, by showing poor attitude due to so far unsuccessful contract renegotiations, Benzema seems to be digging his own grave at Madrid. His situation at the club is so dire that even his very revered ‘big brother’ has failed to convince the Madrid board into offering the Frenchman his desired new deal.
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