Karim Benzema was on fire again in London on Wednesday night, scoring a second Champions League hat-trick in as many games for Real Madrid, as he followed up his treble against Paris Saint-Germain with another away to Chelsea.
The No.9 was unplayable again, and he put the European champions to the sword.
“I don’t like to play football to be the best in the world,” Benzema said after. “I play for nights like this.”
With a few months still to play before the Ballon d’Or is awarded, it’s going to be interesting to see if Benzema can finally win the prize, having deserved it previously. Only Robert Lewandwski (12) has more Champions League goals than him this season.
Europe bows down
The headlines across the continent on Thursday were focused on the French forward.
L’Equipe, La Gazzetta dello Sport, and Bird ensured that he was on the front pages in France, Italy, and in Germany.
“Benzema is the best striker in the world,” said Thibaut Courtois. “He’s showing how high his level is. We score with him, he’s huge.”
The praise came from England too, with Rio Ferdinand having his say on BT Sport.
“When Cristiano Ronaldo was there, Benzema had the humility to be in the background because he knew what the team needed,” Ferdinand said.
“But now he’s come out of the shadows. He’s 34 and he’s the best No.9 in the world. He’s on another level.”
Fabio Capello compared him to Alfredo Di Stefano, saying that “those who know about football see a lot.
“He creates, scores, and is a leader on the pitch.”
Benzema is in incredible form of late, and he’s putting up numbers that resemble Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s best years this season.
He now has 37 goals in 36 games this season and has back-to-back Champions League hat-tricks as well. He forced Edouard Mendy into an error on Wednesday to complete his treble, just as he had to score his first against Gianluigi Donnarumma and Paris Saint-Germain weeks earlier.
Real Madrid’s No.10 is Luka Modric, but the team have a specific formula that was responsible for their success at Stamford Bridge and has been the source of much of their success so far this season.
That formula is the combination of the two most decisive players in the team: the No.9, Karim Benzema, and the No.1, Thibaut Courtois.
The best version of Benzema
The 34-year-old striker is enjoying the best period of his long career at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, having joined the club in 2009.
Having been the provider for Cristiano Ronaldo for much of his time at the club, Benzema is shining in the limelight and putting in the types of performances in Europe that Ronaldo so often did during his time in the Spanish capital.
With two hat-tricks in his two previous matches in Europe, he is currently above not only Ronaldo, but other great goalscorers such as Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Lionel Messi.
Only Robert Lewandowski has matched the standards that Benzema has set so far this season, and the two look set to battle it out for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
As for Courtois, his saves carry the same value for Real Madrid as Benzema’s prolific output in front of goal.
This was seen in west London on Wednesday night, as he pulled off two magnificent saves from Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James that could have altered the complexion of the tie significantly.
The Belgian also transmits security to the rest of his team in difficult moments, given his ability to deal with aerial balls and how natural he is with the ball at his feet.
Courtois has kept 17 clean sheets so far this season, he has made 127 saves and he has a 78 percent shot-stopping success rate, and is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in world football today.
A well-known formula
This particular formula is well known in football, and one of the best examples of it was seen recently at Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas.
The formula was responsible for many Los Blancos victories, particularly in the years leading up to La Decima, which was a turning point in the club’s recent history.
Last season, Atletico Madrid won the LaLiga Santander title thanks to the combination of Jan Oblak in goal and Luis Suarez up front.
In turn, this allowed Lionel Messi to torture opposition defences and lead the Blaugrana to a number of LaLiga Santander titles and Champions League trophies.
Real Madrid will be looking to secure both of these trophies this season, and are well placed to do so, as they have this famous formula.
At Barcelona, Victor Valdes’ work was followed by that of Marc-Andre ter Stegen in keeping the back door shut.