Karim Benzema is running out of lives at Real Madrid. The French forward was whistled again by his own fans during Los Blancos’ 3-1 win at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night and it was no surprise that the team won the game when he had left the pitch.
The 30-year-old has long been considered the ideal striker for Real because of his ability to drop deep and provide for fellow forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. That unselfishness has made him extremely popular with the Portuguese, in particular.
President Florentino Perez is another staunch supporter of the player he signed in his very first transfer window – along with Ronaldo – on returning as Madrid chief in the summer of 2009.
And so too, of course, is Zinedine Zidane. However, the Madrid coach’s insistence on sticking by his compatriot could end up costing him his job. Real are already out of the race to win La Liga and have been eliminated from the Copa del Rey, with only the Champions League left.
Benzema has scored just six times all season, yet Zidane kept faith with his centre-forward for the meeting with PSG on Wednesday and what followed was another disappointing display from the former Lyon striker.
As the game wore on, fans at the Bernabeu were desperate to see Benzema taken off. Ultimately, they got their wish, although Zidane stubbornly waited for as long as he could before replacing the Frenchman with Gareth Bale after 68 minutes.
But it was clear long before then that this was not to be Benzema’s night. In his 68 minutes on the pitch, the striker attempted only one shot, with no dribbles or aerial duels and just two tackles. And apart from chasing down one ball, it was a largely apathetic performance once again from the Frenchman.
That is something the fans will not tolerate and nor should they. Form can come and go, while strikers go through their ups and downs in front of goal. That is understandable. But failure to give everything on the pitch is unforgivable
And Real Madrid have a problem here. After selling Alvaro Morata to Chelsea and Mariano to Lyon in the summer, Benzema was left as the club’s only senior striker for this season. Perhaps that has made him overly comfortable.
“Personally, I would have signed a number nine,” France legend Jean-Pierre Papin said before Real’s game against PSG. “I think Madrid needed to strengthen what they’ve got there.
“The perfect example is Benzema – he scored a lot of goals and now nothing’s coming off for him. He doesn’t even look dangerous, which is very strange.”
Zidane has continued to back his player and said recently: “I am going to defend Benzema until the death. I don’t look only at goals. He is a different player.”
At his best, he is indeed much more than a goalscorer, a striker with tremendous technique and associative attributes. However, it is some time since Benzema has performed at that level and unless he can prove himself all over again, he should never start another big game for Los Blancos.