At a fee of over £30million, it’s hard to believe that Karim Benzema was only the 3rd biggest signing for Real Madrid last summer. To be part of the second Galatico era, under president Florentino Perez, is a priviledge in itself but to it is unlikely for a player to reject the lure of Manchester United.. After all, it’s not often Alex Ferguson pursues a player for over two years. Although Benzema’s decision to join Real Madrid may not have surprised many people, Zinedine Zidane may have had a hand in the deal, but after enduring a mixed start to his career in Spain, is Alex Ferguson now ruing a missed opportunity?
The French forward has been one of the hottest young strikers in World football. His performances at Lyon since the age of 19 had attracted interest from nearly all of Europe’s elite. Now 22, Benzema has displayed a lot of promise in his first season in Madrid.
Real are playing some very attractive football but still remain 5 points off leaders Barcelona. Likewise, Manchester United are also currenly in 2nd place with the challenge of catching Chelsea to look forward to.
With Kaka and Ronaldo both making a huge impact at the Bernabeau, the pressure has been on Benzema to replicate the form he showed in helping Lyon to four consecutive French titles. It would be harsh to expect that sort of form at such an early stage of his new career. Life at Real Madrid comes with a lot of pressure for the players and especially the manager. The politics both in the changing room and the board room has meant that Benzema has had to adjust to being just one of many good strikers along with Raul, Gonzalo Higuain and Ronaldo.
Manchester United have relied heavily on Wayne Rooney this season. There is no doubt that Rooney has revelled in his central position after the departure of Ronaldo. He has come into his own but the red devils certainly lack cover for him should an injury or suspension come around. Although Dimitar Berbatov produced a good display against Portsmouth this weekend he has still failed to produce the form that ensured a £30million move from Spurs. Goals against the bottom clubs will certainly not be what the Old Trafford faithful had expected from the Bulgarian and faith in him is beginning to wane. Michael Owen is readily available but everybody knows that without a run of games Owen will struggle to gather any momentum.
In Benzema and Rooney, Sir Alex could potentially have had one of the most potent strike partnerships in Europe. A £35million price-tag may seem like a bargain considering the amount they paid for Berbatov. Benzema has a proven goal-scoring record in European competitions and displays a similar bullish approach to that of Rooney. He has bags of pace and is equally able to shoot with either foot. With 7 goals so far in his career at Real Madrid the Frenchman has already gained many admirers in the Spanish capital. He is likely to spear-head a French assault on South Africa this summer and many in his homeland will be hoping he can help change the form of the national side.
The missed chance to sign Benzema is unlikely to give Ferguson nightmares, but should United come across ‘Los Galactico’s’ in a later stage of the Champions League, it may be a chance for Benzema to prove why he was worth the £35million price tag.