Although this season has been something of a write-off for Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has had a sensational campaign on a personal level.
So often criticised during Cristiano Ronaldo’s tenure at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Frenchman has stepped forward in 2018/19 to at least bring some light to the enveloping gloom.
His superbly taken hat-trick against Athletic Club on Sunday meant that he has become the only Los Blancos player in their 117-year history to score eight goals in a row for the club, without any of his colleagues also getting on the score sheet.
He is also the sixth highest scorer of all time for Real, is fourth on the list for goals scored in the Champions League and took his tally to 30 for the campaign with his treble on Sunday.
Far more than what we might term a ‘traditional’ centre-forward, Benzema’s all-round skill set is enviable.
He’s adept at holding up play with his back to goal and playing in his attacking colleagues, and as we saw for many a year in the Ronaldo era, he can work the channels when required too. He scores tap-ins, long-range efforts, headers and can dazzle with his dribbling skills.
In short, he has it all.
The less said about his omission from the French national side the better but having no international commitments has been to Real’s benefit.
He remains Zinedine Zidane’s first-choice up front, and Florentino Perez is known to have a soft spot for him too.
Even when he’s gone through tough times in front of goal, he’s always had the backing of his club… which is more than can be said for Gareth Bale.
The season can’t end soon enough for the Welshman, and the boos, whistles and white hankies that were once reserved for Benzema are now steadfastly aimed in Bale’s direction.
With it almost certain that the wide man will depart in the summer, Benzema will have at least one new strike partner next season.
Rodrygo Goes will join his countryman, Vinicius Junior, in Madrid, and one suspects that Benzema’s role will become even more important as the elder statesman of a new-look front line.
But being the main man evidently sits well with a player that has really given his all in the Spanish capital since he signed for Real a decade ago.
At only 31 years of age, there’s clearly a lot left in the tank and, managed correctly, the Frenchman has a few more years left in him yet.
Seemingly, it’s not just French wine that matures well…