Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has opened up on his role in Zinedine Zidane’s system and has asserted that strikers need to do more than just score goals to be considered great players in their position.
It has been a disappointing season for all involved at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Madrid finishing third in La Liga – 18 points behind leaders Barcelona with one game remaining – and exiting the Champions League in the round of 16 to surprise package Ajax.
The 31-year-old, however, has shone at the tip of Madrid’s front line following the departure of all-time club record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, netting 30 goals in 52 appearances across all competitions.
The tally is the Frenchman’s highest since the 2011-12 season, when he scored 32 goals across all competitions – as well as recording 19 assists.
It’s not all about the goals for Benzema though, who feels that a top striker “should not just score”.
He described his image of the complete forward to Quotidien, saying: “A very good striker should not just score, he needs to know how to participate in the game, open up spaces, help his team, make the right runs and, of course, be present in key moments.
“I can say that I’m the boss at Real Madrid, but above all is the work of the team.”
Although Benzema’s efforts won’t secure any major silverware for Madrid this season, his claim to being the main man at the Santiago Bernabeu this season is backed up by the stats, with only Lionel Messi bettering his 21-goal tally in La Liga this season.
Zidane’s return to the Madrid hotseat in March was one that was welcomed by his fellow Frenchman in particular, with Benzema describing his relationship with his manager as that of a “big brother”.
“I have a very strong relationship with him, he’s like a big brother to me,” he continued.
“We talk a lot about football and he has helped me a lot, I have a lot of respect for him.”
With the forward now coming to the end of his 10th season in Spain after departing Lyon in 2009, fans could have been forgiven for expecting a potential return to his homeland in the twilight years of his career.
Benzema, however, believes he would find it difficult to leave.
“Here, I’m at the best club in the world,” he added.
“It’s difficult because I’m looking to play at the highest level, and in France I only have Lyon as a club who are close to my heart.
“I left a very good image in Lyon and I would like it to stay that way, so the answer for the moment is no.”
While the Frenchman has been a key man for his club this season without success, he missed out on being a part of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning squad last summer with Olivier Giroud preferred in attack by Didier Deschamps.
Benzema, who has netted 27 goals in 81 international appearances, understands the need for a new age in French football despite his individual wishes.
“I would have liked to be at the World Cup,” he said.
“Today though, the national team has a new group, a new generation, new players and they are world champions – that’s how football is.”