Karim Benzema might be the most underrated player in the history of football. Not too many players of his class have been written off as “decent” or “overhyped”. Okay, playing with Cristiano Ronaldo for almost a decade will do that to you, but the fact that the Portuguese thought so highly of him proves why the Frenchman is world-class.
Didier Deschamps, France’s manager, seems to agree because he has recalled the Real Madrid striker for the first time in five years. On the surface, the move spells trouble for the world champions’ competitors, and it looks even worse when you delve under the surface.
It’s not as if France has missed Karim Benzema in the last couple of years, not when they have Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe spearheading their offense. The Euros betting market highlighted this beyond doubt, even before the news that Madrid’s top goalscorer this season would return to international action dropped, making them 5/1 second-favorites behind England.
Of course, there is also the small detail of winning the World Cup in 2018 with pretty much the same side. If anything, this France squad is arguably stronger as the likes of Ousmane Dembele is more mature and a bigger goal threat, while Mbappe is transforming from a wunderkind into the real deal. Then, there are Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso to factor in.
Throw in Benzema and the French international side is stronger than ever. However, it was pretty good with the forward sitting on the sidelines, so having his quality and experience around the camp should only benefit the entire outfit.
A Super Impressive Domestic Campaign
Benzema scoring goals isn’t shocking because he’s been doing it for over ten years, whether it was in France or Spain. But there are caveats to consider regarding his past individual achievements, such as his age and the caliber of players who were beside him on the pitch. At 33, he’s no longer peaking, and the Real Madrid team is considered very weak.
So, when Madrid made it to the Champions League semi-finals and almost won La Liga on the final day, it was hard to see how they were competing with the best clubs in European Football. Several people put it down to Zinedine Zidane, which is true because he milked every ounce of talent out of the men at his disposal.
Still, to look past Benzema’s achievements is wrong seeing as he ended the season with 23 goals and nine assists in the league. He also notched six goals in the Champions League. What does this mean? It means he is still in red-hot form and takes that into Euro 2020, making England’s odds of 9/2 incredibly vulnerable.
The Ultimate All-Rounder
Additions to squads this early to a major tournament should always bring something to the table. In Benzema, Deschamps has a player who can do everything asked of a striker at the business end of a competition. His goal-scoring antics prove he’s a master marksman with an eye for goal – you don’t finish in the top ten contenders for the Golden Shoe without being cold-blooded.
Benzema’s eye for a pass will also come in handy. In La Liga, for example, he was the joint fifth assist-maker for the season with five, which was as many as Lionel Messi. Plus, the Frenchman is comfortable dropping deep and creating a link between the midfield and the offense.
This is essential not only for assists, but for the space it creates for Griezmann, Mbappe, and Dembele to run in behind defenses. Thanks to Benzema, Mbappe’s odds of 6/1 to finish as the top goalscorer could easily tumble as the tournament progresses.
When you analyze what Benzema adds to the France squad, the main theme is positive. He’s a threat attacking-wise, he’s an unselfish creator, and his experience on and off the pitch will be vital for the world champions.