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.
Hearing the talk of competition and replacements year after year, Benzema has always battled through and come out on top, outlasting several strikers that Real Madrid have brought in. During a period in which it seemed Benzema and Real Madrid would go their separate ways; Mourinho lit a fire under Benzema which has not yet extinguished.
With the famous quote by Jose Mourinho: “If I can’t hunt with a dog, I will hunt with a cat”. The cat being Benzema, and describing his lackadaisical play that was also openly criticized by Kaka. This quote seemed to be a turning point in his career. Benzema elevated his game and evolved to become the exact type of number 9 that Madrid needed. He was now relentlessly pressing defenders and dropping back in-between the lines to pick the ball up.
Perhaps his most difficult battle was with Argentina and Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain. It was eventually shown that Higuain was struggling in the big games for Los Blancos, and Benzema got the ultimate vote of confidence when Higuain was sold to Napoli.
The Real Madrid club president, Florentino Perez has been Benzema’s biggest fan since he purchased him back in 2009. This relationship has surely helped him outlast the normal time one player spends at the club before getting the ruthless axe. The Madridistas heavily consider players who generate money vs. those players who only have footballing value. Benzema was certainly a long term investment by Florentino Perez. Perhaps this relationship has allowed him to outlast many other players in the ruthless Bernabéu.
After the 2014 season, Real Madrid allowed Alvaro Morata to go to Juventus. Earning regular playing time allowed Morata to mature as a player. After a two-year spell with Juventus, Real Madrid exercised their buy-back clause. However, Benzema has once again confined Morata to the bench for most of the season.
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.
However, tactician’s appreciate Benzema's undeniable quality. Perhaps, the best way to describe Benzema would be a true hybrid between a goal-poaching forward and a false 9 center forward. His greatest skills include holding the ball up, exploiting space by opening up for a pass or a darting run, and waiting for support to launch lethal counter attacks. Benzema can also score with both feet, has dominating aerial prowess, and precision passing for a center-forward. Although, he is constantly forced to adapt his playing style during matches to accommodate Ronaldo and Bale cutting inside from the wings. Benzema finds the space whether it be out wide in the space vacated by Ronaldo and Bale, or dropping into the midfield to play a pass in behind. This has also helped him to develop into a complete attacker because he has played each position up front for Real Madrid and France.
While Benzema’s contributions often do not show up enough on the stat sheet. His selfless play deserves endless plaudits because it allows Ronaldo and Bale to be at their best. Perhaps no other player in the world would be content to play third fiddle, but it has become Benzema's signature. If Benzema were to join another team where he was the focal point, his production would certainly increase.
If we think about the life many of us would live if we were professional footballers, Benzema displays that lifestyle through his off the pitch exploits. From getting a speeding ticket on the way home from his first El Clasico in a yellow Lamborghini, to Hollywood nights with the one and only Rihanna. Benzema’s personality and aura has reached far beyond the white boundary lines of the football pitch. Cementing himself as a true Starboy, his ability to live his life as if no one else is watching is enviable.
Never forgetting his childhood, Benzema visits his hometown of Bron as often as he can. When many others need bodyguards to walk around this tough working class neighborhood, Benzema speed through in his flashy cars and no one bothers him. He also has a parking spot reserved year-round at the nightclub L'Imprevu where he and his childhood friends can often be found partying.
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.
With a long list of on the field accomplishments, celebrity girlfriends, and an exotic car collection it was an easy decision. Benzema takes the first spot on our list of Starboys. Think you know who the next players will be? Get in touch and let us know!