Karim Benzema Profile
|Born||Dec 19, 1987|
Karim Benzema is arguably one of the best strikers France has ever produced. The Ballon d'Or winner has won a pile of silverware at Olympique Lyon, Real Madrid and on the international stage.
Benzema was born in Lyon and first made a name for himself on the books of Olympique Lyon after a stint at SC Bron as a youngster.
In 2009, Benzema moved from Lyon to Real Madrid, where he earned a reputation as one of the most potent and hard-working strikers in the world.
After winning four La Liga titles and five Champions League crowns with Real Madrid he was finally rewarded with the 2022 Ballon d'Or at the age of 34.
Career at Olympique Lyon
Benzema joined Lyon's academy as a youngster and served as a ball boy for senior team matches.
He made his breakthrough during the 2004/05 season under Paul Le Guen.
Benzema's game-time gradually increased year on year until he became a central figure in the Lyon team in 2007/08. Benzema won four successive Ligue 1 titles from 2004/05 to 2007/08.
After another impressive season in 2008/09, Benzema left Lyon for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid talisman
Benzema signed for Real Madrid on July 1, 2009 for a transfer fee reported to be €35million, rising to as much as €41million with incentives added.
Benzema scored nine goals in 33 appearances in his first season in 2009/10. In the 2010/11 season, he came into his own and scored 26 goals in 48 matches.
The 2011/12 season was even more impressive as Benzema scored 32 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions and Real Madrid won La Liga with a record 100 points under the guidance of Jose Mourinho.
The 2013/14 season saw Benzema score 24 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions as Real Madrid won their coveted 10th UEFA Champions League title with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm. They became the first club (and remain the only one) to do so.
Although the 2012/13 campaign was less impressive and Real Madrid lost the La Liga title to Barcelona, Benzema had established himself as a key member of the team. He scored 20 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions.
Benzema then scored 22 goals in 46 appearances in 2014/15 and 28 in 36 the following season. Real Madrid won the Champions League once again in 2015/16.
Los Blancos defended their European title in 2016/17 and 2017/18, also winning La Liga in 2016/17 under Zinedine Zidane. Benzema goals dried up somewhat in 2017/18 and he netted only 12 times in 47 appearances, but he remained a hard-working player highly valued by Zidane.
Benzema rediscovered his magic touch in front of goal during the 2017/18 campaign. In 2018/19, he scored 30 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. The following campaign, he netted 27 times in 48 matches as Real Madrid won La Liga. In 2020/21, Benzema scored 30 goals in 46 appearances.
At the ripe old age of 34, Benzema had arguably his most successful season ever in 2021/22.
He helped Los Blancos win the Champions League, defeating Liverpool in the final, to add to their La Liga success, scoring 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions.
His performances earned him the 2022 Ballon d'Or, beating Bayern Munich's former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane to the men's top prize, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne in third place.
"It was a childhood dream for me and all the work I have done, I never gave up. I am really proud of my journey here," he said after winning the award.
Turbulent France national team career
Benzema's association with the French national team has been complicated. In 2006, before his international career started, he reportedly spoke to RMC about the possibility of being called up to the Algerian national team.
"It's my parents' country, it's in my heart. But good after sporting, it's true that I will play in French team. I will always be present for the French team. Then it's more for the sporting side, because Algeria is my country, here, my parents come from there. After, France ... It's more sporty, that's it," he was quoted as saying.
Despite disapproval, Benzema does not sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.
"If you listen to the words, La Marseillaise is a call to go to war. That's not something I like particularly," he reportedly told Vanity Fair.
Raymond Domenech handed Benzema his first call-up to the France national team in November 2006.
"I am pleased, of course, me and my family. A (the senior national team), is the national team's highest honour," the striker was quoted as saying. He went on to feature regularly in the team by 2007.
Benzema was a consistent goalscorer for the France national team, but from the beginning of his international career, there was always controversy. The early years featured allegations of an illegal act committed with an underage prostitute, but charges against Benzema were ultimately dropped.
Benzema was left out of Raymond Domenech's squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, an ill-fated campaign.
In November 2015, Benzema was arrested over his alleged involvement in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.
The French Football Federation subsequently announced that Benzema would not be in their squad for Euro 2016. He responded with a Marca interview in which he alleged that Didier Deschamps had folded to pressure from racists in France.
"It's a stain," Deschamps said in an interview with RTL, recalling Benzema's interview years later, in 2021.
"Even if with time it calms down a bit, I can't forget. It's not just about Karim Benzema. There are statements by other people too that have led to this violent act, which affects my family.
"When it concerns me, on my choices as coach, the tactics, the technical aspect, it has to be accepted and it does not matter.
"There, it crosses the white line. It touches my name, my family. For me, this is unacceptable.
Laurent Blanc revitalised Benzema's international career and he featured at Euro 2012, also making the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad under Didier Deschamps.
"Saying certain things necessarily leads to verbal or physical aggression. I suffer the consequences. We cannot forget. I cannot forget. I will never forget."
However, Deschamps recalled Benzema to his squad ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament. In the final friendly warm-up match, he made his first appearance for the national team in over five years.
On June 23, 2021, Benzema scored his first goals at Euro 2020 when he netted twice in a 2-2 draw against Portugal. He finished the tournament on four goals after scoring twice in France's round-of-16 loss to Switzerland.
In October 2021, Benzema scored the opening goal in the Nations League Final against Spain, as France went on to lift the trophy. He was also named man of the match.
The Nations League title was the 27th major trophy of Benzema's career and made him the most decorated Frenchman in football history.
Benzema was injured on the eve of the 2022 World Cup, but remained in the squad. Rumours circled he would be fit for the World Cup final against Argentina, but he was not selected by Deschamps and many believed the duo had fallen out again.
Benzema called time on his international career in December 2022 with 37 goals from 97 appearances.
Benzema married French model Cora Gauthier in 2016. The couple have a son Ibrahim who arrived in 2017.
Benzema's also has a daughter, Melia, was born on February 3, 2014 from a previous relationship.
Benzema has an estimated net worth of $40million, and reportedly earns weekly wages of $221.7K with his annual salary amounting to around $12 million.
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