Wall Street Football

Nobody wants to be Robin

“All with the number 10 on our backs and then we miss penalties

You have realized too that in this world of heroes

No one wants to be Robin.”
Cesare Cremonini

In a world like football where the team is more important than the individual however there has always been a greater focus on the player who solves the game: the champion who makes the difference with one play and grabs all the headlines and the spotlight. 

It is a world where ego sometimes prevents great teams from winning due to a lack of cooperation.

To disprove this there are some players that are able to understand their role immediately and put themselves at the service of the team: Karim Benzema is one of them. 

From the moment he started wearing the “camiseta blanca” he immediately understood that he would not be Batman with a player of the caliber of Cristiano Ronaldo next to him, a multiple Ballon d’Or winner.

However he recognized that he could be his best Robin, and finding the right synergy would allow them, as they did, to win everything there was to win.

Since the arrival in Madrid, the Lyon-born player has won 20 trophies, the most important of which are the 4 Champions Leagues including the historical 3 in a row.

This winning cycle explains more than anything else that it was not just the individual that was decisive, but the whole team.

In those years of continuous victories the most powerful weapon of the Madrid team was definitely the attack, the famous BBC trident: Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In this trio, between “Mr. 100 million” Gareth Bale and the star Cristiano Ronaldo, the French player perhaps never got the recognition and respect he deserved for his contribution to the team. 

As a good sidekick or Robin, he has always sacrificed his game either for the good of the team and especially for the Portuguese player, who was certainly the main star and the core of the game.

After playing in his shadow for years, Benzema is finally getting the acknowledgment he deserves even because, like a good French wine, he has developed and improved his game exponentially over the years.

Starting as the main player in Lyon, centralizing the whole maneuver, in the past years he has learnt to play either as an assist man for his teammates but also as a pure number 9 to realize the opportunities that came his way. Thus now he has managed to combine both aspects, turning himself into the Batman of the Madrid attack.

The numbers confirm this: he is the third highest scorer in Madrid’s history, above a legend like Alfredo Di Stefano (317 goals), just 7 goals behind Raul, but with a higher average goal rate: 0.53 vs 0.44.

In addition to this his passing skills and footballing IQ made him Real Madrid’s best assist man of all time with 157 assists and also one of the top 10 assist men in the history of the Champions League: 27 in total and still counting.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Madrid in 2018, he has maintained an average goal rate of around 30 per year becoming the main offensive weapon. 

Since he came to Madrid in 2009 in 13 years it has only happened once that he has exceeded 30 goals in a season, scoring 32 in the 2011/2012 season.

Benzema goals & assists – Season 2021/2022

During this year he also became the greatest French scorer in history with 419 goals, surpassing Thierry Henry (412) counting both the club and national team.

So the numbers along with his performances, like the ones in Champions League in which he scored two hat-tricks against the defending champions of Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, say that this is his best season ever, at the age of 34.

With seven games left in La Liga, as Sunday’s important match against Sevilla, and the Champions League semi-final to play, the Frenchman has already scored a career-high 38 goals and 13 assists.

In spite of his great scoring capacity, the most interesting statistic to emerge from the analysis is his accuracy: the striker is the player that shoots the most in the entire league (49) and has a shots on goal average of 1.8 times per game on goal with a scoring percentage of almost 50% that demonstrates his efficiency and killer instinct.

In addition to this, he is undoubtedly the center of the game thanks to his characteristics. He’s an atypical number 9 with an important technical background who comes out of the penalty area to play with his teammates and who touches many balls, he averages 53 touches a game.

Furthermore he totals about 32 completed passes, an average of 1,5 key passes per game and he’s leader in assists in La Liga (11).

His playmaking ability with his teammates has also resulted in the explosion of his offensive partner Vinícius jr. who is having his season of consecration to great football with 17 goals and 17 assists so far.

Recording them as one of the most prolific duos (55 goals) in the major European leagues immediately behind Bayern Münich duo Lewandoski – Muller with 59.

The Polish player is the only one to have scored more goals in this year’s Champions League (13) but, thanks to Bayern Münich’s recent elimination, Benzema with 12 is still in the running to become the top scorer of this year and even overtake him in the all-time list: 86 vs 83 goals respectively.

His high-level and continuity of performances are evidenced by a WSF Performance Index of 7.2: in 27 appearances, he did not contribute in terms of assists and goals in only 9 games, falling only 3 times below a rating of 6.

Benzema WSF Performance Index – Season 2021/2022

The statistics, his form and his decisive performance throughout the season have put him into the discussion for the next Ballon d’Or, which would be the right way to celebrate a outstanding career and a great player who has been waiting for his moment to shine.

by Giorgio Patania, Elisa Zanchetta

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