As a player who won domestically in France with boyhood club Lyon, and then with Real Madrid for his decade-long career in white, Karim Benzema is not a player who flaunts his success too much. Winning French and Spanish league titles as well as multiple UEFA Champions League titles has left Benzema as one of the most celebrated and decorated players of the modern era. Being high-up on the UCL scorers list also helps, with the Frenchman a key contributor to Madrid’s revival as a Champions League force in the last decade.
However, for Benzema, a black mark existed on his career: failure with France. A failure at a few tournaments prior to a major blacklisting from the national team due to off-pitch scandal had left France’s most talented forward out of the picture. As Kylian Mbappe formed a world-class partnership with ideal link man Olivier Giroud, Benzema watched as his nation lifted the 2018 World Cup.
After years of exile, Benzema was called up for UEFA Euro 2021 and performed outstandingly. However, his individual qualities were not enough as France exited the tournament despite being 3-1 up late against Switzerland in the knockout rounds. Benzema was blamed for disrupting the harmony of Les Bleus, and many seen his call-up as a mistake.
However, the French-Algerian showed why he is regarded as among the best forwards of his era with a series of outstanding displays in the Nations League. There, he played a key role as the French beat Belgium 3-2 late-on to eventually win the game and take on Spain in the Final. Late drama also followed in the Final, before France won the game late on and ensured Benzema can finally say he won something with his nation.
What did Benzema say about UEFA Nations League success?
Despite a trophy cabinet that is bursting at the seams, Benzema was clear that this ranked up there with his most positive career moments. In an interview with Marca, Benzema was quoted s saying: “It means a lot to me,
“I’m very proud of my work after five years without being in the squad. It’s been hard work, physically and mentally, and I’m excited to keep working and winning titles.”
Being able to lift a tournament with any nation is a huge boon, but being able to lift a trophy with France is special. The sheer level of talent the nation has to pick from means that anyone who gets into a squad must perform. Since returning from a half-decade of exile in national team colours, Benzema has gotten on with making up for lost time and ensuring that he can continue to progress.
Although Giroud has been the one to miss out despite years of service for his country, the return to form and prominence of Benzema can only be a good thing. Long seen as one of the best forwards of his era, it only feels right that the striker can add an international trophy to a massive haul of club success.