Karim Benzema born 19 December 1987) is a French international footballer who plays for Spanish club Real Madrid in La Liga. He primarily plays as a striker whose influence can extend out to the wings and is known for his technical ability, powerful style of play, and vast goal-scoring ability. He is described as an "immensely-talented striker" who is "strong and powerful" and "a potent finisher from inside the box"
Benzema was born in the city of Lyon and began his football career with local club Bron Terraillon. In 1996, he joined the biggest club in the city Olympique Lyonnais and, subsequently, came through the club’s youth academy. Benzema made his professional debut in the 2004–05 season and appeared sporadically in his first three seasons as Lyon won three titles in that span. In the 2007–08 season, Benzema became a starter and had a breakthrough year scoring over 30 goals as Lyon won its seventh straight league title. For his performances, he was named the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Ligue 1 Player of the Year and named to the organization’s Team of the Year. Benzema was also the league’s top scorer and given the Bravo Award by Italian magazine Guerin Sportivo. After another season at Lyon, in July 2009, Benzema signed a six-year contract with Spanish outfit Real Madrid. After struggling to establish himself in his debut season with the club, in the ensuing two seasons, Benzema reached prominence scoring 58 goals en-route to helping Real Madrid win the Copa del Rey in 2011 and the 2011–12 edition of La Liga. In December 2011, he was named the French Player of the Year for his performances during the calendar year.
Benzema is a former French youth international and has represented his nation from under-17 level onwards. Prior to playing for the senior team, he played on the under-17 team that won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship. Benzema made his senior international debut in March 2007 in a friendly match against Austria. On his debut, he scored his first international goal in a 1–0 win. Benzema has represented France at two major international tournaments; the 2008 and 2012 editions of the UEFA European Football Championship. He made two appearances in the former competition against Romania and Italy in the group stage.
On 1 July 2009, it was announced that Lyon had reached an agreement with Spanish club Real Madrid for the transfer of Benzema. The transfer fee was priced at €35 million with the fee rising to as much as €41 million based on incentives. On 9 July, Benzema successfully passed his medical and signed his contract, a six-year deal, later that afternoon. He was presented officially as a Real Madrid player later that night at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, similarly to the previous signings of Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo. Benzema made his Real Madrid debut on 20 July in the club’s opening pre-season friendly against Irish club Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, appearing as a halftime substitute. He scored the lone goal in the club’s 1–0 win, scoring in the 87th minute. On 24 August, Benzema netted two goals in Real Madrid’s 4–0 victory over Norwegian club Rosenborg in an annual friendly tournament organized for the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy. The goals brought his total tally in the preseason with Real Madrid to five, making him the joint top scorer alongside fellow striker Raúl.
Benzema made his league debut for Madrid on 29 August 2009 against Deportivo La Coruña. He started the match, but was substituted out in the second half as Madrid won 3–2. A month later, he scored his first goal for the club in a 5–0 victory against newly-promoted club Xerez. After missing the mid-week match against Villarreal, against Tenerife at the weekend, Benzema scored his first double for Madrid in a 3–0 home victory. He made his Champions League debut for the club on 30 September in a group stage tie against French club Marseille. In the match, Benzema assisted on a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. After failing to score a goal in the month of October, in the team’s first match in November against Italian club Milan in the Champions League, Benzema scored the opener to give Madrid a 1–0 lead. His goal was later cancelled out by a Ronaldinho penalty. On 7 November, in the El Derbi madrileño, Benzema assisted on Madrid’s second goal, scored by Marcelo. Madrid won the match 3–2.
Benzema playing against Marseille in a 2009 Champions League match.
In late November, Benzema began appearing mainly as a substitute as manager Manuel Pellegrini preferred Gonzalo Higuaín in the lead striker role. To coincide with his benching, the striker was also being criticized by the Spanish media for his under-performance and difficulties settling in the country as he had not yet begun learning the Spanish language. He was even declared the "new Anelka" by a Spanish newspaper Marca blogger, referring to former Real Madrid striker Nicolas Anelka who had a tumultuous year at the club before being sold. Benzema was defended by his compatriot Zidane who admitted "after two months, I was also criticized" and that Benzema was "a talented player and talented players in Madrid must win".
On 5 December, Benzema appeared as a substitute for Rafael van der Vaart and scored the third goal in a 6–0 romp of Almería. The day after the match against Almería, Benzema responded to the criticism by stating "I am totally integrated and very happy at Real Madrid" and "Yes, I have improved my adaptation. I have a new home and I’m learning Spanish to understand myself better with my teammates". After nearly a month coming off of the bench, he started alongside Higuaín away to Valencia on 12 December and responded by assisting on one of Higuaín’s two goals. A week later, Benzema returned to the bench. On his 22nd birthday, he scored in a 6–0 home win against Real Zaragoza. Following an injury to Higuaín in early January 2010, Pellegrini inserted Benzema back into the starting lineup. After failing to score in his first two starts in the absence of Higuaín, against Deportivo La Coruña on 30 January, he scored a double in an important 3–1 away win. Following the return of Higuaín, Benzema was relegated back to a substitute’s role and finished the campaign by making eight consecutive appearances off the bench. Included in one of the those appearances was his final goal of the season against Athletic Bilbao in a 5–1 win.