Underrated Karim Benzema Is the Perfect Attacking Partner for Ronaldo and Bale

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Underrated Karim Benzema Is the Perfect Attacking Partner for Ronaldo and Bale
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Karim Benzema will continue to fascinate and frustrate Real Madrid fans till 2019. According to the club's official website, the Frenchman recently received a contract extension that will see him stay at the Santiago Bernabeu for another five years.

While this is just reward for his contributions, the Frenchman will continue to remain the player many fans love to hate. 

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Karim Benzema is not the kind of No. 9 that Madrid fans expect.

The Frenchman wears the No. 9 shirt worn by departed club icon Alfredo Di Stefano, the incomparable Brazilian Ronaldo and Spanish favorite Fernando Morientes. The No. 9 shirt is associated with goals, and Real Madrid fans expect its wearer to bang them in week in, week out with aplomb.

But while Benzema is a decent goalscorer, his game is not that of a classic goalscoring forward and never will be.

Goal.com's Greg Stobart believes that Real Madrid need to sign Radamel Falcao because Benzema is not quite "in that stellar bracket" alongside Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and doesn't have what it takes to "lead an attack against world-class opposition." 

Stobart is both right and wrong. It's true that Benzema is not Ronaldo or Balebut that's OK, few are. It's fair to suggest that Benzema isn't good enough to lead Real Madrid's attack.

But that's OK, because he isn't the leader of the attack—Ronaldo is.

Benzema's name may figure on top of the attack in the tactical team sheet, but he is a facilitator of the attack rather than its leader. And his game is crucial to the success of his more celebrated teammates.

Carlo Ancelotti said it best in remarks reported by Football Espana: "I think in this team I have Karim Benzema, who is very reliable, and I can use other players there. ... It’s not important to have a striker who scores that many goals but a player who passes to Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale.”

The fact of the matter is Benzema is not in the line-up to be the team's premier goalscorer. Real Madrid's primary goal threats are their Galactico inverted wingers, Ronaldo and Bale. Ronaldo guarantees at least 50 goals a season. Gareth Bale averaged a goal every two games in his debut season, despite missing pre-season training and being hampered by injuries.

Real Madrid don't need Benzema to be an ultra-prolific goalscorer; they need him to function as a foil for Ronaldo and Bale, and he does just that.

The Frenchman is crucial to the lightning-fast breaks that mark Real Madrid's attacking game, dropping deep to receive the ball before spraying it out wide to the speed merchants on either flank.

During more patient build-up plays, Benzema streaks around the box, dragging defenders with him and creating space for the other members of the BBC.

Ronaldo and Bale both require space to cause damage, and Benzema's selfless runs create just that.

When Benzema does get on the ball in the final third, he is beautifully unselfish. That cold, detached demeanor that often makes him appear disinterested on the fieldas if he is merely going through the motionsis also his great strength and makes him the selfless goal-creating servant that he is.

Peter Dejong/Associated Press

You rarely see Benzema get a rush of blood to the head and take wild shots at goal.

Rather, he goes for the high-percentage option, which is often to assist a teammate or reset the attack by passing the ball back to midfield. 

His nonchalance makes him an excellent decision-maker in crowded penalty boxes, and the goalscoring records of his partners in the BBC triumvirate are better for it.  

Last season, he managed a hugely impressive 14 assists anddespite his unselfish style of play22 goals, according to WhoScored.com. These numbers represent a hugely commendable all-round display. They also don't take into account the numerous goals that his link-up play helped create—even if they didn't result in goals and assists to his name. 

Rather than chase Radamel Falcao, Real Madrid would do well to cherish the exquisite talents of Benzema. He may not be the best striker in world football, but there is none out there more suitable for Real Madrid than him.

He doesn't care to be the team's top scorer. He doesn't want to be the center of attention. He just wants to play, to take part in the attack, to assist his teammates and put a few away himself when he gets the chance.

He is, in the words of Marca's Ruben Jimenez, "a forward who dreams of being a playmaker."

It's high time Real Madrid fans appreciated Benzema, as he remains crucial to Madridistas' collective dream of sweeping all before them.

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