Karim Benzema made history last evening by becoming the first Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or after Zinedine Zidane. As poetic justice, he was handed the prestigious trophy by none other than Zidane himself at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
With the Real Madrid forward also becoming the second player, apart from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, to win the Ballon d’Or since 2007, it goes without saying that the focus will be on Benzema over the coming weeks.
Now, Mundo Deportivo has offered insights into the early stages of his footballing career, where he was almost on the verge of signing for Real Madrid’s arch-rivals FC Barcelona.
The incident dates back to 2008 when then Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain had gone to Lyon in an attempt to sign Benzema. He was 20 years old at the time and was coming on the back of an excellent 2007/08 Ligue 1 campaign that saw him score 20 goals.
The Barcelona representative, led by Begiristain, was even left impressed by Benzema’s performances. They saw shades of Ronaldo in the player and wanted to secure his services in the summer of 2008.
However, upon meeting Begiristain, Benzema’s representatives and indeed the player himself suggested that he was too young to take such a big step in his career. As such, the Barcelona team returned to Catalonia without signing the Frenchman.
But the following year, Benzema ultimately signed for Real Madrid for a fee of €35 million. It was a well-calculated risk by president Florentino Perez that has turned out to be one of the club’s best signings in recent decades, as the attacker has since scored 328 goals in 615 competitive matches for Los Blancos.
The 34-year-old scored a goal as Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 to go to the top of the La Liga standings this past Sunday.
Real Madrid’s 29-year-old star upset with his situation, desires more clarity on role
At Real Madrid, the quest for securing a spot in the first-team lineup involves battling it out with some of the best players in European football.
Competition is generally considered the perfect antidote to complacency and the Merengues‘ immensely talented roster encapsulates that sentiment best.
While injuries have done a number on the team, there is still an abundance of competition in the squad. As of now, the fight for a spot in the starting lineup is most intense among the goalkeepers.
Indeed, since the beginning of the campaign, there has been no fixed goalkeeper with both Andriy Lunin and Kepa Arrizabalaga featuring between the sticks alternately.
However, after being acquired on a season-long loan to fill in the absence of Thibaut Courtois, Kepa is not entirely content with his situation.
Kepa unsatisfied with the unclarity
Indeed, as per The Athletic, Kepa is extremely disappointed with his situation and how the coaching staff at Real Madrid have been handling the matter.
Ancelotti has not clearly explained his reasoning as to which of Lunin and Kepa is currently his first-choice keeper.
And according to sources close to him, Kepa is unhappy and would have preferred further clarification on the matter from the manager.
Lunin in the driving seat
Owing to Lunin’s exceptional form lately, he has successfully displaced Kepa as the first-choice goalkeeper.
In fact, Kepa has not started a game since Real Madrid’s clash against Almeria last month in which they leaked two goals.
It is safe to assume Kepa’s frustrations stem from the fact that he initially arrived as the primary keeper to replace Courtois and turned down an offer from Bayern Munich to join the Madrid outfit.
As such, being shunned and having minimal clarity from the coaching staff’s preferred goalkeeper has led to dissatisfaction.
As things stand, Real Madrid have no plans of signing him permanently, given that Chelsea would ask around €20 million for him, something that the club have intentions of paying.