Karim Benzema, in his 11th season at Real Madrid, has stepped out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, says Steve McManaman, with the challenge being for Gareth Bale to do likewise.
A prolific French forward arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu during the same summer transfer window as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner back in 2009.
Benzema has always been happy to do his bit for the good of the collective cause, even when Ronaldo’s unworldly goalscoring exploits saw him attract criticism for his contribution.
With a Portuguese superstar having departed for Juventus in 2018, a 31-year-old frontman has come into his own – registering 30 goals last season and another 16 in the current campaign.
“I’ve been really impressed actually because ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left, someone had to step up didn’t they?” former Blancos star McManaman told HorseRacing.net.
“Karim’s been there for 10 years and he’s had to live in Cristiano’s shadow to a certain extent because of the goalscoring exploits of Cristiano.
“When he left it was down to other players like [Marco] Asensio, Benzema and even this year when they bought Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard, it’s the one person in that forward line who’s been there the longest who’s come to the forefront and they’ve relied on him so, so much.
“He’s a quiet lad when he’s interviewed, but he’s quietly gone about his business and if anything this has been one of his more prolific years.”
While Benzema has become a key man for Madrid, Wales international Bale is still searching for a spark.
He has enjoyed a productive stint in the Spanish capital, but has failed to win over everyone and continues to be linked with a move elsewhere in each passing transfer window.
McManaman has always been a supporter of the talented forward and hopes that a Clasico clash with arch-rivals Barcelona on Wednesday could be a springboard for Bale to get his mojo back.
“Wow, it would be a good catalyst,” said the ex-England winger.
“If you play against Barcelona and you win and you score and you do well then you can get the fans on your side.
“Whether he will play is another thing. He missed the game against Club Brugge midweek, he only played a small part against Valencia, but I don’t know what’s happening with him regarding injuries at the moment.
“I’d love to see him play and I’d love to see him play, win and score goals like he has done in the past.”
Bale has just two goals to his name in another injury-hit season from 11 appearances.