Player v. Player: Karim Benzema v. Gonzalo Higuain
If any position promises to be most fought for in coming season at Real Madrid, then it is going to be of a striker.
Much is dependent on which formation is going to be used by Manuel Pellegrini. If he uses 4-4-2 (or even 4-4-1-1 or 4-1-2-1-2) then both Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain can play together or pair with Raul, depending on Pellegrini’s lineup.
However, in case of 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation, Benzema would be the most likely candidate as his best position is center forward and he also prefers to play as a lone striker. Real Madrid’s interest in Xabi Alonso (maybe already a done deal), also raises speculation of 4-2-3-1 formation being employed.
Whatever formation is eventually used, Karim Benzema would have a better chance of featuring in the first team. Simply because Señor Pérez didn’t pay €35 million price tag for one of the hottest properties in soccer just to become another expensive bench-warmer.
Benzema is big but with a strong upper body which is good to edge past opposition defenders. He has the self-confidence but needs to work on his crossing while on the flank.
Benzema is capable of playing wide but hasn’t been good there.
Higuain's position is on surface at least vulnerable, despite being a fan favorite after saving Real’s blushes last season many times. He might be feeling unsure about his playing time after signing of Benzema. But he is determined to rise to the challenge and fight to win a place on the first team. Recently he said that, "the arrival of high-quality players makes me be more motivated."
Ultimately whoever becomes first team regular; both are great talents and have big futures ahead of them.
There are other strikers like Alvaro Negredo and Klass-Jan Huntelaar at the club as well who could, given opportunity, do the job. Currently both are being linked to other clubs. Huntelaar came close to a €18 million Stuttgart move whereas Negredo has been linked to Tottenham.
Because of the sell-on clause in Huntelaar’s contract, Real will have to pay €7 million to Ajax which means only €11 million net on a €20 million purchase. If Van Nistelrooy is offloaded and one of Negredo and Huntelaar is to be kept then Huntelaar should be because his height gives him presence in the penalty area, especially in the air from crosses and set-pieces.
Strictly in financial terms, it would be better business to sell Negredo for €18-20 million. He had a good last season at Almeria but is still unproven at Real (as the competitive season hasn’t started yet).
There is still so much uncertainty about the front-line starters. Perhaps as preseason goes along and Pellegrini makes his experiments, some favorites will start to emerge from the younger strikers.
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