What has happened to Benzema? Madrid boo boy doesn’t deserve France recall

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The 29-year-old has been disappointing for Los Blancos in 2017-18 and, on current form, he doesn't warrant an international recall with Les Bleus

Perhaps Gary Lineker had a point all along. The former England striker was widely derided for daring to question Karim Benzema on Twitter during Real Madrid's 1-1 draw with Tottenham at the Santiago Bernabeu last month. But the Frenchman has done little to prove him wrong since.

"Is it me or is Benzema a tad overrated?" Lineker tweeted. "A goal every other game in a team as strong as Real Madrid is nada especial . Decent not great."

Benzema 100/1 for CL Golden Boot

A series of angry editorials followed in the Spanish media and a few days later, his coach Zinedine Zidane said: "For the people who know about football, to say that is an embarrassment. For me, he is the best of them all."

Later, the French forward himself said: "What I have more of a problem accepting is the criticism of former players-turned-journalists who, some of them, spread their hate. They have gone through the same difficulties, but they have no solidarity. I feel sorry for them, really."

Benzema season stats graphic

Lineker, however, had merely asked a question. And apart from one useful assist for Marcelo in the 3-0 win over Eibar, Benzema has done little on the pitch since to prove he is above criticism. In fact, many Madrid fans are seemingly in agreement with the former England striker.

There were whistles for the France forward at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday as he missed chances again in the game against Las Palmas and was substituted by Zidane for the seventh time this season.

Benzema, who has also had a spell out through injury this term, has scored only two goals in the current campaign and just one since the Spanish Supercopa against Barcelona back in August. So while Lineker had quoted his overall record of around one in two (Karim has 182 goals in 377 matches for Madrid), his strike rate is only one in six so far in 2017-18.

"I'm not going to talk about injustice because everyone here has been whistled," Marcelo said after Real's win on Sunday. "If they whistle you, you have to improve something. It's hard to play when you're whistled but you have to train like Benzema does, face it like he does. Whistles are part of football. It can't all be wonderful."

Karim benzema

Karim Benzema Didier Deschamps France

Right now, it is not, and although Benzema has long been considered as the ideal striker for Real Madrid, a perfect foil for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, he is proving somewhat less effective in the team's current formation.

Ronaldo enjoys playing with Benzema due to the striker's ability to drop deep and link up, allowing the Portuguese and Bale to push on and exploit the spaces he helps to create. With the Welsh winger sidelined, however, Madrid have Isco to do that and might benefit from more of an out-and-out goalscorer when the Spain midfielder is in the side.

The summer sale of Alvaro Morata and the lack of another senior striker at Madrid means Benzema is unlikely to be dropped any time soon - especially as he is so highly valued by Zidane. And in the meantime, the French forward (who will be 30 in December) is hoping to earn a recall to his national team ahead of next year's World Cup.

Benzema has 27 goals in 81 appearances for France, but never entirely convinced for Les Bleus and has not featured since being questioned by police in 2015 in connection to an alleged blackmail attempt against international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, over a sex tape reportedly showing the former Marseille midfielder and his partner.

Kylian Mbappe, PSG

The striker has since been cleared and said last week: "I still have the hope to go to Russia. I want to give myself every chance to succeed. Of course I want to come back to the France team. "What footballer does not dream of playing in a World Cup? I try to be the best in my club and we will do the sums at the end."

However, France boss Didier Deschamps has so far poured cold water on a possible recall for the Madrid man. "The French team was built before the Euro, it consolidated through the competition where France managed to go to the final," he said earlier this year. "I have a group in which there is harmony. I trust players who answered on the field."

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Deschamps will also feel he has enough talent to cope without him. Arsenal's Olivier Giroud has a better international record than Benzema (with 28 goals in 68 games) and is a popular player due to his battling spirit, while France also have Atletico's Antoine Griezmann and young Paris Saint-Germain sensation Kylian Mbappe, with Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele expected back from injury soon.

On top of that, Manchester United's Anthony Martial, Lyon's Nabil Fekir and Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette are all fighting for a place in the France squad for Russia, so Deschamps has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in attack.

Right now, Benzema is incurring the wrath of frustrated fans at Real Madrid and has done nothing of note to earn an international recall, either. So talk of a return or speculation he may make a public apology is all secondary at the moment. First, he will have to improve his performances on the pitch.