STARBOY: Karim "Bugatti" Benzema
Benzema’s personality and aura has taken a while to catch up with him, but now his reputation far precedes him. From pictures of his Bugatti on Instagram, to Hollywood nights with Rihanna, Benzema does not shy away from the spotlight. No other player has such contrasting personalities from the pitch to the streets. From a Starboy outside of the white boundaries of the football pitch, to quiet and humble on it. Benzema is a true Starboy.
One of France’s finest players came from troubled beginnings. He was first noticed playing in a youth academy game for his hometown club, SC Bron Terraillon Perle, after scoring twice against Olympique Lyonnias. After being recruited for the Lyon youth academy, he quickly progressed through the ranks scoring prolifically at each level.
This success did not come without critics from even his own coaches. Benzema's introverted nature meant that he was not the imposing figure of your typical center-forward.
The 2007-2008 season proved to be Benzema's breakthrough season. He was handed the #10 shirt with many big name players departing from the club. The great Sir Alex Ferguson even sung Benzema's praises after their clash in the Champions League Round of 16 clash in 2008.
Karim went on to bang in 31 goals in 51 games that season. He won the Ligue 1 golden boot and player of the year, selected to the team of the year, and shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or. By the beginning of the 2008-09 season, he had proven himself to be a prolific goal scorer for Les Gones and his ascendency to Starboy had well and truly taken off.
After his terrific scoring form and four Ligue championships, a big transfer was on the cards. Scouted heavily by Barcelona, all signs were pointing to a transfer to the Camp Nou. However, the Barcelona hierarchy were concerned over his troubled past and associations with the wrong crowd. After a visit to his home in the tough working-class suburb of Bron, they called the transfer off.
The following summer, the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez paid a visit to the same two-story house in Bron and was not deterred. A deal was struck between Lyon and Real Madrid for €35 million, rising to €41 million with incentives. Benzema has provided a great return on investment, allowing each Real Madrid coach to get the best out of Mr. Ronaldo and Bale while continuing his goal scoring exploits.
There is perhaps no other player that would be so comfortable playing in Ronaldo and Gareth Bale’s shadow. This takes away the spotlight from Benzema, something that he has yearned for since childhood.
During his Los Blancos career, Benzema has often played a crucial role for Real Madrid that has not received the plaudits deserved for his performances because of the other-worldly talents of Bale and Ronaldo. With Ronaldo and Bale taking so much of the attention, Benzema can go through games unnoticed to the casual fan.
Staying true to the religion that his parents raised him on, he is openly Muslim. He does not have any tattoos, something that surely deserves plaudits with seemingly every football player getting them left and right. He also does not consume alcohol or eat pork. Perhaps the most eye-opening and difficult part of observing the Muslim religion, and being a professional football player is during the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims observe a fasting schedule, that includes abstinence from food or water during daylight hours. Real Madrid’s team doctors have devised a nocturnal eating schedule so that Benzema can still observe Ramadan and perform at the highest levels.
The Starboy power of Benzema was on true showcase during the 2014 World Cup. He and Rihanna connected after RiRi showed her support for the Les Blues during one of their group stage matches. Getting to know each other slowly and meeting several times, it seemed that they were an item for at least a certain period of time. With no shortage of supermodels lining up for him, Benzema can be seen with multiple different women. Notably last year he sparked a frenzy when he posted a video with the former lover of Axel Witsel. While it is not clear whom Benzema spends most of his time with off the pitch, his Starboy status does not limit his friends circle.