The UEFA Champions League final, considered the greatest club game in world football, is where the best players meet to decide the kings of Europe.
As Real Madrid and Liverpool battle it out to determine this year’s winner, a number of stars will take to the pitch at the Stade de France this weekend.
And one of the biggest names in this year’s final will be Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
The France international is a favorite for the coveted Ballon d’Or, and he could secure top spot on that podium with a memorable performance in the biggest club game in the world, which is taking place in his home country. origin. With the game being played in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, Benzema will be in familiar surroundings.
The Sporting News brings you a comprehensive look at Benzema’s incredible career, from his professional debut in 2005 to his latest triumphs.
MORE: How many Champions League finals have Real Madrid played in and won?
Who is Karim Benzema?
Born in Lyon, France in 1987, 34-year-old Karim Benzema is considered one of the best strikers in the world.
The Frenchman began his career at his hometown club, Lyon, working through the club’s youth system before making his first-team debut in 2005.
He stayed at Lyon for almost five years before earning a €35million move to Real Madrid ahead of the 2009/10 season.
It’s hard to imagine a transfer yielding better value than Benzema’s switch. For this small sum, Benzema returned it several times. The Frenchman has made 604 competitive appearances for Real Madrid over the past 13 years, scoring 323 goals and assisting another 159.
While Benzema’s early career at Real Madrid was designed around a supporting role for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, whom Benzema played admirably, the Frenchman has since taken firm control of the club’s goalscoring responsibilities from the start. of Ronaldo in 2018.
Much of Benzema’s recent success has finally lifted him out of Ronaldo’s shadow, proving he can carry the Spanish giants himself.
In his career to date, Benzema has won four Champions League titles, four La Liga titles (including this year’s crown) and four Ligue 1 titles, along with several other club and individual accolades.
MORE: How Karim Benzema escaped Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow
Karim Benzema’s incredible 2021/22 season
While Benzema has been a world-class striker for over a decade, recent years have seen the Frenchman find even greater speed, despite his age. Now in charge of Real Madrid’s attack following Ronaldo’s departure in 2018, Benzema has taken on the goalscoring responsibilities.
For a player who has been one of Europe’s best strikers for so long, last season may have been his best yet.
In the 2021/22 season, Benzema topped the La Liga goalscoring and assists charts, scoring 27 league goals in 32 appearances and assisting another 12. Moreover, Benzema has 15 Champions League goals in 11 games with the final still to come.
The Champions League was where Benzema really played. Real Madrid advanced through incredible comebacks on several occasions, beating both PSG and Manchester City in resurgent fashion.
Benzema was at the forefront of every comeback, with a memorable hat-trick in the round of 16 second leg against PSG, followed by an extra-time winner against Manchester City in the semi-final second leg.
Will Karim Benzema win the Ballon d’Or?
After his incredible season, it’s very possible that Benzema will win the 2021/22 Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.
With that ceremony now moved to crown a winner in October, following the previous European club season, Benzema is the overwhelming favorite for the game’s highest individual prize.
Winning the Ballon d’Or would make Benzema the second player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to lift the trophy since Kaka won in 2007, only Benzema’s Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric in 2018, going against the grain of this trend. Robert Lewandowski was thought to be the likely winner ahead of the awards last year, but Messi picked up a record seventh award.
MORE: Who will win the 2021-22 Ballon d’Or?
Does Karim Benzema still play for France?
During his illustrious international career, Benzema amassed 94 caps for France but it could have been many more if he hadn’t been banned from the team for six years.
Benzema did not make an appearance for the France team from October 8, 2015 to June 2, 2021.
The absence stems from a blackmail scandal involving French national team-mate Mathieu Valbuena which saw Benzema arrested.
Benzema allegedly recorded a sex tape of Valbuena and blackmailed his teammate with the recording. He was found guilty in November 2021 by a French court and given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of €75,000 ($84,000; £63,000).
Benzema has always denied the allegations and insisted he was only trying to help Valbuena get rid of the video.
During his international absence, Benzema missed France’s victory in the 2018 World Cup, as well as his country’s loss to Portugal at Euro 2016.
After the long absence, during which Benzema publicly challenged French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet, he was finally called up for friendlies in June 2021 and played in France’s disappointing Euro 2020 tournament. .
Benzema is expected to be involved in France’s plans for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year.
How many trophies has Karim Benzema won?
Benzema’s trophy cabinet is already full of silverware from his entire career.
He won back-to-back Ligue 1 titles in his first four full seasons of club football with Lyon, as well as the Coupe de France and Trophée des Champions twice, and since joining Real Madrid he has become a magnet for more medals.
The 34-year-old has so far won four La Liga titles, six domestic cups through the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup three times, the FIFA Club World Cup FIFA four times and the Champions League four times. already ahead of Saturday’s final, where he could claim number five.
With his national team, Benzema enjoyed less success, largely thanks to his six-year exile from the Blues, but he still managed to win his first international trophy by winning the new UEFA Nations League in 2020/21, and he will look to add to that at the 2022 World Cup later this year.
Karim Benzema’s trophies with Lyon
Karim Benzema Trophies with Real Madrid
|2012/13||Spanish Super Cup|
|2013/14||UEFA Champions League|
|2014/15||UEFA Super Cup|
|2014/15||FIFA Club World Cup|
|2015/16||UEFA Champions League|
|2016/17||UEFA Super Cup|
|2016/17||FIFA Club World Cup|
|2016/17||UEFA Champions League|
|2017/18||Spanish Super Cup|
|2017/18||UEFA Super Cup|
|2017/18||FIFA Club World Cup|
|2017/18||UEFA Champions League|
|2018/19||FIFA Club World Cup|
|2019/20||Spanish Super Cup|
|2021/22||Spanish Super Cup|
Karim Benzema Trophies with France
|2020/21||UEFA Nations League|
Karim Benzema stats for club and country
During his illustrious 17-year career, Benzema has amassed an impressive number of goals and assists throughout his time on the pitch.
Here’s a breakdown of all his performances for Lyon and Real Madrid, as well as his time with the French national team.
Karim Benzema’s statistics with Lyon
|UEFA Champions League||19||12||2||1,489|
Karim Benzema’s statistics with Real Madrid*
|Spanish Super Cup||11||5||3||866|
|UEFA Champions League||122||74||26||8,797|
|UEFA Super Cup||4||1||1||351|
|FIFA Club World Cup||8||3||2||720|
* Correct before the Champions League final
Karim Benzema’s statistics with France
|fifa world cup||5||3||2||450|
|Qualifying for the FIFA World Cup||22||7||3||1,267|
|UEFA Euro qualifiers||11||5||4||701|
|UEFA Nations League||2||2||0||180|
|International friendly matches||43||15||9||2,534|