Will Karim Benzema Trial Affect Striker's Form for Real Madrid?

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 30:  Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF celebrates after scoring Real's second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Valladolid CF at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on November 30, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

On Monday, a trial started in Paris that involves two of France's best national team footballers: Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema.

It's an unusual situation by any stretch of the imagination, as they are accused of having sex with an underage prostitute. If found guilty, they could face a charge of up to three years in prison, via The Telegraph.

Neither footballer has to attend at present, but that will surely change as the trial progresses.

For some, problems off the pitch are a catalyst for excellence on it. The game acts as a solace; they find that inside the stadiums they are able to forget their worries and produce their best.

Others struggle to separate their personal qualms from the judgment of opposition supporters. They play within themselves and sink into their shell. Clearly, they see that all is not rosy.

Obviously, the severity of the dilemma will play a part; if you're accused of something inside football, the punishment will not be of the same worriment as a life event that could end in a custodial sentence.

One area that does resurface again and again is the temptation of the opposite sex. Affairs, orgies and brothels have all affected a number of players in the past.

High-profile personalities such as John Terry and Wayne Rooney have had their names lit up by the tabloids for all the wrong reasons. There's nowhere to hide when 40,000 people are singing songs about private matters that you would rather forget.

What's striking in the case of Benzema is that reported original incident took place almost four years ago. That's a long time to have such an episode hanging above his head, yet at the same time he must be used to dealing with the inconvenience of it all.

He has displayed an incredible amount of mental strength during his stay in Madrid. He has had to contend with fan discontent, media criticism, positional changes, dressing-room unrest, a number of different managers and being used as a political pawn.

Then there was Jose Mourinho's infamous putdown, via The Guardian: "If I can't hunt with a dog, I will hunt with a cat," he said. "With a dog you hunt more and you hunt better. But if you have not got a dog and you have got a cat, you hunt with a cat." 

When Mourinho alternated the use of Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, it initially revitalised the Frenchman. He recorded his best season in terms of goal-to-game ratio, as the competition was healthy and made him stronger.

However, a year later, it had the opposite effect, with the two strikers tired of not being given a run of games. Even when they scored, the uncertainty of not playing the following match led to a feeling that they weren't being rewarded for their performances.

Now Benzema is undoubtedly Carlo Ancelotti's first-choice striker, as he is growing in stature once more and his goalscoring record is becoming more prolific.

At the weekend, he scored his 100th goal for Los Blancos with the trial about to commence and then netted another in the Copa Del Rey against Espanyol the day after the start of the court proceedings.

This suggests he won't let his off-field situation distract him from his finishing duties, but this could change, of course.

Ultimately, it could depend on whether he thinks he will be found guilty. If he is confident that he is innocent or that he and his solicitor will win, then why would he let this aggravate him?

Early signs indicate it won't bother Benzema, but the longer it drags on and the more twists in the story, the more likely he is to wobble a bit on the turf.