Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Real Madrid last summer
has given Karim Benzema the chance to play his "true
football," the French forward has told France Football.
Ronaldo was the focal point of the Madrid attack from when
he arrived in the Spanish capital -- at the same time as
Benzema -- in 2009 until the Portuguese superstar headed for
Juventus last summer.
Benzema, who had been a prodigy as a striker at Lyon, had
often been seen as playing second fiddle to his prolific
teammate, teeing up Ronaldo for a healthy portion of the more
than 300 goals he netted in his time with the Spanish giants.
Now, it is Benzema who leads the line for Santiago Solari's
side, and the 31-year-old could not be happier to have taken
on extra responsibility with the 13-time European champions.
"Before, there was a guy that scored more than 50 goals a
season and I was in the role of a passer. Except that I had the
No. 9 on my back. I didn't play centre-forward in fact, in spite
of my position. I played in terms of Cristiano. We formed a
great duo. I looked for him constantly with the aim of helping
him score even more goals. I was in a secondary role.
"Now, it's up to me to show I want to score, that I want to
carry the team. And that's what I like. It's actually what I did at
Lyon. I said to myself that I had to take that to Madrid, but
even better. And that's the case now," explained Benzema,
who has scored 20 times in 40 competitive outings for his
club this season.
"When I came to Madrid, I had to change my way of playing. I
put myself at the service of a guy who -- I say again -- scored
50 goals a season. And it was a pleasure to play with him.
Now, I'm the leader of the attack. It's up to me to make the
difference. I am very happy, because I can play my true
While Ronaldo is way ahead at the top of the Champions
League all-time scorers' chart, Benrema's four strikes in the
competition this term have eased him into fourth place in the
prestigious ranking, 11 goals behind another Madrid legend,
"That shows that I scored goals before and at important
moments, because the Champions League, even when an
opponent seems to be less good, is always tough. Seeing
myself in this position makes me very proud and motivates me
to go further, which means catching the legend that is Raul,"
said the Frenchman, who has 60 goals to Raul's 71. "I don't
think about statistics when I'm on the pitch, I'm not obsessed
by that. But the consequence of my play is that I can go a little
more into the history of Real Madrid if I catch Raul.
"But that will come by playing my game, not by listening to
those who say, 'Think more about yourself.' No, no, I respect
football. I say to myself, 'Make runs, open up play, play passes
and you'll be rewarded sooner or later.'"
He added: "Of course, it's good to score goals to make your
team win, but if you can give it victory another way, that's also
good. I really regret that today we talk more about statistics,
the number of goals and chances, than your play. For me,
football is above all a game. It's not only statistics. It's not
basketball! You go to see a football match for moves, one-
twos, shots, no-look passes...Football has to remain a show.
I've thought of football like that since I was very small."