Why Real Madrid Striker Karim Benzema Is the Best Pure Striker in Spain

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 20:  Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the la Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Betis Balompie at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 20, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

They never truly died but they did drop out of fashion a little bit. Or maybe that was just Barcelona and the Spanish national team?

During a period in which Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been so dominant, traditional No. 9's have been less prominent than bygone eras of Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer.

They're certainly back on the map now though. Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Robin van Persie have been playing modified, more modern adaptions of the role and then this week, Robert Lewandowski sensationally stamped his mark on Europe with a four-goal haul against Real Madrid.

Real Madrid have never given up on having a central striking figure, their problem has been their indecision between Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain.

Benzema arrived in Spain in 2009, Lyon receiving €35 million for the French striker—it was a big summer of spending for Los Blancos. Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo also arrived for absurdly high transfer fees.

Now 25 and approaching the end of his fourth season in the Spanish capital, Benzema has never truly reached his full potential. There's still time though, and given not just that time but a run of games, his name could be back among the most feared predators in Europe.

When Madrid won La Liga last season he enjoyed his best return—scoring 21 league goals, seven in Europe and 32 in all competitions. This season though, he's been allowed 90 minutes on just five occasions and not once in 2013.

Starved of action. Starved of rhythm. Starved of consistency.

He does still score and create though. In 21 starts—two of which were in a wide position—he's scored 11 and assisted eight, while from his 13 substitute appearances he scored two and created two more (via whoscored.com).

Squawka reveals he's created 34 chances in La Liga this season. Considering the hitherto nature of his starting role in the first team, that's still more than Higuain (21), Falcao (28), Roberto Soldado (25) and Alvaro Negredo (27).

All the aspects are there. Last season he demonstrated his ability to score goals, this season he's shown how much he can create—despite his sometime sporadic involvement. He can hold up the ball, go inside or out and isn't a slouch.

Combine them all and he possesses more qualities in his game than any other striker in Spain, but in that is the problem. They're rarely combined.

He could still have his moment this season, be it in the Copa del Rey or the Champions League, but if he survives the summer then next season, his fifth in the Madrid white, will be key.

If he can produce regularly, then all the abilities which point to him being the best pure striker in Spain on paper, may at last be realized on the pitch.