Throughout the years and past decades, we have seen some of the greatest players emerge from France. This includes the likes of Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Eric Cantona, Lilian Thuram, Thierry Henry, and a plethora of others. In recent times we have seen the likes of Pogba, Griezmann, and Mbappe, with many more to surely come. Those from the past and the present are looking to make a case for the best French player of all time. Yet, none of the aforementioned names truly deserve that award. This is because there is one player who is yet to be named. He is a player who has conquered Europe and Spain while collecting personal accolades to strengthen his claim as the best French player of all time. This player is none other than Karim Mostafa Benzema.
***Disclaimer: Before reading the main argument of this article, just make sure to read it with an open mind, as little bias as possible, and most importantly through the eyes of a soccer fan, not a French or any team-specific fan. These steps are very important to properly understand the following claims made in the article, as well as getting a whole new impression of Karim Benzema.
To start this argument, the best place to always start with is statistics. Playing primarily as a striker, it seemed only fit to compare him to three of the greatest forwards France has produced: Michel Platini, Thierry Henry, and Raymond Kopa.
|*(Club Only Stats)||Raymond Kopa||Michel Platini||Thierry Henry||Karim Benzema|
|Best Season Stats||1957/58
0.32 G+A Ratio
0.60 G+A Ratio
1.19 G+A Ratio
1.00 G+A Ratio
|Number of Trophies (Club + Individual)||13||20||34||33|
*Note: The inclusion of Raymond Kopa–a player who is said to one of France’s best–is to show exaggeration and hype created by the media and fans.
- 5th highest all-time goalscorer in the UCL (69 goals)
- 4th highest goalscorer for Real Madrid (261 goals)
- 4th most trophies won as a Real Madrid player (19)
- 2nd highest assist provider in Real Madrid history (140)
The above stats show Karim Benzema’s individual greatness against the likes of Kopa, Platini, and Henry; the statistics clearly depict Benzema’s superiority. Kopa won the Ballon D’or in 1958, but his stats are nothing compared to that of Benzema’s. Platini also won the Ballon d’Or in 1983, 1984, and 1985, yet in all those seasons he never surpassed Benzema’s best season nor Henry’s. So before anyone jumps to the claim that Kopa and Platini both won the Ballon D’or, they must understand that Benzema faced the competition of both Ronaldo and Messi, which is far superior to what any of the other players mentioned ever faced. And although Platini was an attacking midfielder, his role in the French team and at Juventus resembled that of a second-striker.
Besides his goal-scoring and playmaking abilities, Benzema’s role as a player goes under the radar. He started his career at Lyon where he was the main man and would play as an out and out striker. However, his move to Real Madrid saw him become second best to Ronaldo, as he had to adjust to the new system. Benzema’s time at Real Madrid saw him play a deeper role, accommodating Ronaldo’s inward movements and tendency to stay in the box. Henry, on the other hand, had a much more free-playing role, as the team was built around him, meaning he never had to adjust his own style of play. Platini was also the main player at Juventus, where he played a dominant role in the team’s successes, but he also never had to adjust his style of play for anyone else.
Benzema’s ability to work with Ronaldo and surpass other competition can be seen during his time at Madrid. Benzema has been the highest assist provider for Ronaldo (47 assists) while also outlasting his competition which included the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata. Raymond Kopa, played for one of the greatest Real Madrid teams, so his influence was not as high and in the French team, he partnered with Just Fontaine and the two were an incredible duo. However, in both teams, he was never the star player, showing his lack of competency among his teammates, something which Benzema overcame.
Though he may not have been the best player at Madrid, he continued to be a crucial part of the team. He helped the team win 3 La Ligas, 3 UEFA Supercups, 4 Champions Leagues, 4 FIFA Club World Cups, and other domestic trophies. He recently overtook the title for lead assist-provider for Real Madrid with 133 assists, a record that will require something special to break.
The information provided thus far clearly proves Benzema’s extraordinary abilities as a player, not only through his playing skills but also his intelligence and adaptability. But besides Kopa, Platini, and Henry, there have been numerous players who are argued to be better than Benzema. These include Zidane, Cantona, Kopa, Papin, Fontaine, and many others. Many of them have even lifted international trophies, European Cups, and other prestigious awards. But so has Benzema–besides the Ballon D’or.
Many readers of this article are also going to claim that Benzema has not won any international trophy, but it would do good for those readers to remember that Benzema has been disgracefully excluded from the French National Team due to past events and actions. So it only seems fit to not bring up national level play and statistics in this article about Benzema.
Comparing Benzema to other French greats is not a difficult task. It is clear he has much better statistics, and anyone watching the Real Madrid team since Ronaldo left, knows that Benzema has been doing a “carry-job”.
And so comparing Benzema to other French players does not do him enough justice, as he deservingly needs to be compared to all-time greats. This includes Puskas, Di Stefano, Gerd Müller, van Basten, Ronaldo “El Fenomeno”, Lewandowski, Suarez, Aguero, and any other legendary strikers to have played soccer.
If the above does not convince you that Benzema is the greatest French player of all time, and also one of the greatest ever, then I sincerely request you to get your brain checked.