When Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid at the end of last season, a world-class signing was expected to replace the greatest player the club has ever had. It came as a surprise to many when the Spanish giants chose instead to bring back a player they had let go just a season prior, Mariano Diaz, to act as back-up for Karim Benzema. But not only was signing a Galactico necessary to replace Ronaldo, a top striker was also needed to replace the Frenchman as well.
Although 25-year-old Diaz may go on to perform for the club, he is not there yet. But that’s not the real problem. The key problem the club is facing is the fact that the main striker is struggling for goals. And that’s nothing new. Benzema has been underperforming in the Spanish Capital for several seasons now. Fellow countryman Zinedine Zidane went to extra lengths to defend the striker as Los Blancos struggled in La Liga last season. He waved off all calls for the club to sign a top striker to ease the burden on the Portuguese captain.
But what he could not wave away was the fact that the club went on to have a very poor season in La Liga and finished third behind both city rivals Atletico Madrid and El-Clasico rivals Barcelona. The Blaugrana went on to help themselves to the double. Not much was made of the striker’s failures due to the fact that Les Merengues went on to win a third consecutive Champions League.
However, the fact that Ronaldo scored tremendous goals for the Champions League holders meant that the player charged with the responsibility of scoring goals for the club was largely ignored. Or how can you explain the fact that the French striker scored a meager five goals in La Liga last season and yet was rewarded with a new four-year contract? Interestingly, after Madrid’s early season struggles thus far, the spotlight is now squarely on the 30-year-old.
Benzema’s failures become very much apparent when he is compared to strikers in other top teams. From Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi to Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, they have scored 53, 54 and 59 goals respectively in the last two campaigns for their club sides compared to Benzema’s 16. That’s not up to half, not even up to one-third.
Ciro Immobile scored 41 goals in 53 games for Lazio last season alone. As for Benzema? It was 12 goals in 47 appearances.
For a club as big as Real Madrid, that’s simply not good enough. Certainly not for the club’s number one striker.
After getting a vote of confidence from the new Madrid boss, Julen Laportegui, the former Lyon striker started this campaign on a high. He scored four goals in two of the first three league games and many felt he had turned a corner. It was even suggested in some quarters that he is back to his former self as he now has Cristiano Ronaldo off his back. But eight league games have come and gone and he has failed to score in six. He has also failed to make a single strike in the Champions League.
Coincidentally, the team is struggling as a result of a lack of goals and the one man that’s the most guilty of failing in his responsibility is Benzema. At a time when Barcelona and Atletico are not having a great time, Madrid should be taking advantage. Instead, they sit fifth on the table still behind the duo as Sevilla top.
Ronaldo’s accomplishments may have let the center striker off the hook in the past few seasons but it’s time for a change to be made for good. Mauro Icardi and Harry Kane fit the bill. And as far as Benzema is concerned, there are definitely some other better options out there as well.