It has been a resurgent Karim Benzema at Real Madrid with the French forward enjoying his most prolific season since 2015-16.
For years Benzema had been relegated to playing second fiddle to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu, a role which he performed with absolute excellence.
Benzema’s excellent running down the channels and clever movement was the perfect foil to the Portuguese superstar’s supreme finishing abilities. The sight of Benzema pulling defenders out of position and then laying the ball on a platter for Ronaldo was a common one in the Madrid capital.
Not that Benzema was complaining as Madrid marched to a record three consecutive Champions League titles while Ronaldo racked up the Ballon d’Ors.
Now, with Real Madrid’s record goal-scorer doing his thing at Juventus instead, Benzema has finally emerged from the shadows to take centerstage once again.
Now the senior man of the Los Blanocs attack, Benzema is relishing leading the line once again and has been at the end of some important goals for Santiago Solari’s side.
His 41 appearances across all competitions this season has yielded 20 goals and seven assists so far. The last time the Frenchman racked up similar numbers was in 2015-16 where he bagged 28 goals and eight assists in total.
While Ronaldo’s absence has clearly been felt by the Spanish giant this season, Benzema has done well the shepherd an attack which has mostly comprised of teenage Vinicius Jr, Lucas Vazquez and and the injury-hit Gareth Bale.
“Now I'm able to play my true game," Benzema told France Football recently.
"Before I used to play to help Cristiano, now I'm the leader in attack. I feel more legitimate. I have the feeling that, from now, I'm free.
“When I was on the pitch, I was constantly looking for Cristiano Ronaldo with the objective being that he'd score the most goals possible.”
Both Ronaldo and Benzema arrived at Real Madrid in the same summer in 2009. With the latter now in Serie A, the shackles have well and truly come off for the former and there will be many more goals to come him before the season ends.