Madrid striker Benzema celebrates 14 years in Champions League
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has become an established player in the Champions League and the Frenchman will celebrate 14 years in the competition, having first appeared with Lyon in February 2005 during their last 16 tie against Werder Bremen.
According to Marca, Benzema was just 17 years and 53 days old, but such was his promise that Lyoncoach Paul Le Guen decided to call him up for the two-legged clash against the German side. Though he did not feature, with Lyon winning the first leg 3-0 and the second leg 7-2, it was the Frenchman’s first taste of what European football is like.
One season later, he made his debut against Rosenborg and marked the occasion with a goal; since then, he has played in every campaign without exception.
Now 31, Benzema has four Champions League medals in his trophy cabinet but that night against Werder, on 22 February 2005, was the beginning of his European journey.
During three seasons at Lyon, he scored 12 goals in 19 games in the Champions League and he has only added to those statistics with Los Blancos, playing a further 91 times and scoring 47 goals; he is in the top four when it comes to goals scored in the competition, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raul Gonzalez.
Since the Christmas break, Benzema has been exceptional, leading Madrid from their time of potential crisis to their best form of the season, and he will be looking to continue his good run against Ajax on Wednesday night.
The Madrid No. 9 has struck up a telepathic relationship with Vinicius Junior in attack and, for comparison, the Brazilian was just four years old when Benzema made his European debut on Lyon’s bench against Werder.
As well as the form of Benzema, Vinicius has played a key role in Madrid’s resurgence in the last month and he is yet another player that the Frenchman has been able to understand on the pitch, following on from the very successful partnership he had with Cristiano Ronaldo.
This season, Benzema has three goals in six games in Europe and he will want to try and beat his personal record of seven strikes in the 2011/12 campaign.
The Champions League curtain is set to raise again and Benzema will be keen to put on a show.