Benzema, Ronaldo woes weighing heavy on Real

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-21 07:21

MADRID - In a recurring theme of Real Madrid's struggles, Zinedine Zidane said all his side lacked was a goal as it fell 10 points behind La Liga leader Barcelona after firing more blanks in a bad-tempered Madrid derby on the weekend.

Yet, in attempting to defend a lackluster performance from Saturday's stalemate at Atletico Madrid, Zidane turned the spotlight once more on the misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Ronaldo's run of one goal in eight La Liga games has attracted more attention because it is so out of character for a man who has tallied 414 times in 408 games and is Madrid's all-time top scorer.

The World Player of the Year has also bagged six goals in four Champions League games to compensate for his slow La Liga start.

Benzema, by contrast, has just two goals in nearly 1,000 minutes on the field this season in all competitions and patience with the Frenchman is wearing thin.

Madrid-based sports daily Marca described the repeated presence of Spanish wonderkid Marco Asensio on the bench for Real's biggest games as "incomprehensible" after Asensio posed more of a threat for the final 15 minutes than Benzema had for 75 before being hooked at Wanda Metropolitano.

Marca's rival publication AS described Benzema as a "ghost striker" for his lack of end product.

Former England great Gary Lineker has even provoked a fierce reaction from both Zidane and Benzema in recent weeks for labeling the latter "overrated".

Benzema's eight-year stint at Santiago Bernabeu has been filled with highs and lows.

Jose Mourinho complained of the forward's meek nature when he was Real boss, claiming he wanted a "hunter" while describing Benzema as a "cat", while the former Lyon star has often been whistled by the demanding Bernabeu crowd for his lack of killer instinct.

Four-year deal

However, in a huge show of support, Benzema, 29, was handed a bumper new four-year contract in September.

Madrid also bet big on Benzema by cashing in on Alvaro Morata when Chelsea offered $81 million in July and failed to replace the Spanish international.

Morata scored more goals than Benzema last season despite playing fewer minutes, and the sensational start to his Chelsea career has left even Ronaldo questioning Madrid's transfer policy.

The Portuguese said Real lacked the same experience in a depleted squad this season after its first loss in the Champions League group stages in five years against Tottenham at Wembley.

Yet it is Ronaldo's presence that has played a huge role in preserving Benzema's status, with the latter seen as the perfect unselfish foil for Ronaldo.

"He is more egotistical than me, but that is normal," Benzema told Canal+ France last week on his relationship with Ronaldo.

"I score goals but there is someone alongside me who scores 50 goals a season."

Zidane has been a fierce defender of Benzema's role as a team player, not just a scorer.

"Karim won't score 60 goals a season, but he will score 25 or 30 and he will assist 30-40," he said in response to Lineker's criticism.

However, with Real having saved its money as rampant inflation swept through the transfer market in the summer, time is running out for Benzema to prove his worth with the club well placed to splash out on a new Galactico at the end of the current campaign.

Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all been linked with a move to Madrid.

Agence France - presse

Benzema, Ronaldo woes weighing heavy on Real

(China Daily 11/21/2017 page22)

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