Classic number 9, and more: Karim Benzema

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Les Bleus and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is a classic number 9 with a difference, with his movements and influence upfront making him a genuine number 9.

Big European clubs have eyed him from an early age, as he made his presence felt while rendering his services for Lyon, whose academy he’s a product of since the age of nine.

It was hard for talent scouts not to notice him, a 15-year-old who netted almost 40 goals in a season for an U/16 team. His football intelligence makes him a full package.

Snatched by Real Madrid in 2009, it took him some time to settle in, perhaps because Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain was preferred ahead of him. But the latter’s departure has seen the Frenchman getting more game time and ultimately increasing his scoring tally.

Many have said he goes missing in big games, but of late he has raised his hand, both for club and country. In his 10th season with Real, he is proving to be the prolific striker everyone has known since his days at Lyon.

Perhaps he is going to Brazil for some revenge since he was overlooked for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

With Lyon, Benzema won the French Golden Boot in 2007/08 with 20 goals. With Madrid, he scored 26 goals in 2010/11, 32 in 2011/12, which enabled him to become the leading French goal-scorer in the history of Real Madrid and of La Liga, beating Zinedine Zidane’s record.

Algerian by birth, Benzema has represented France at every age level from U/16 to U/21 before making his senior debut for Les Bleus in a March 2007 Stade de France friendly against Austria, in which he scored.

Watch out for this powerful two-footed forward with an enviable eye for goal.

– By Tshepo Tsheole