Karim Benzema Equals Ronaldo's Real Madrid Goal Tally, Praises All-Time Great

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2014

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema from France gestures during a press conference on the 2014 soccer World Cup in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

As a young French footballer growing up in Lyon in the 1990s, you wouldn't be short of role models.

Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps were in their prime, then came the emergence of Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira.

For anyone with an eye for flair, then Zinedine Zidane would stand out as he helped his country win the World Cup in 1998 and was voted player of the tournament in 2000 as France won the European Championships, via Wikipedia.

If your hopes were to be a top striker, then you may have fancied yourself as the next Eric Cantona or Jean-Pierre Papin, whilst Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and David Trezeguet were all breaking through at the end of the decade.

Not Karim Benzema: His idol isn't even French, but when you delve a little closer into his childhood and how he has grown, then it becomes clearer.

"I've dreamt about meeting him ever since I was 12 years old. I still can't believe it. He is an amazing player, the best there's ever been," said Benzema in October 2009 to the official Real Madrid website.

That player was Ronaldo—not his teammate and the current Ballon d'Or holder—but the Brazilian who is the all-time leading goalscorer in World Cup finals.

He was the World Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997, then appeared and performed exceptionally at France '98, before the mysterious events of the final against the host nation, via ESPN.

As Benzema turned 12 in late 1999, the previous years would have been very influential in the forward's memory bank.

If you look at Benzema's height, build and a number of his characteristics, it makes sense that his hero would be Ronaldo.

"Friends of mine have told me he does things in a similar way to me," commented Ronaldo when Los Blancos arranged a meeting between the two of them.

"They say he does step-overs, that he shoots with both feet...Being able to do the latter is a plus for any striker because defenders don't know what you are going to do. He is doing a great job and I'm having a lot of fun watching him play."

Ronaldo was certainly more individualistic and his skill-set was at a higher level, but the comparisons are well established. Both are strong, quick, direct and powerful.

"I don't play like Ronaldo does and I don't know how to do everything he is able to do. I don't know if I'll be able to be as successful as he was here; he won many titles. I wish I can do the same," remarked Benzema humbly.

The fact that his only major silverware at the Bernabeu was a solitary league championship in five years was quickly forgotten with Benzema in awe of O Fenomeno.

Last weekend Benzema reached the same goal tally for Real Madrid as Ronaldo. His brace against Villarreal gave him his 103rd and 104th goals, via Football Espana.

He did it in 215 appearances, whilst Ronaldo achieved the target in 177. "I’m very happy to get to that level," he stated in the mixed zone after the match. "For me, Ronaldo is the best ever."

The striker isn't the only person to feel this way. Ronaldo had an incredibly talented team alongside him, but there was never the sense that he wasn't the main man.

Benzema has struggled to get into the position he now finds himself and he should be proud of how far he has come. The team isn't set up to maximise his talents and it could be argued that he is more of a team player.

Ronaldo will be remembered as one of the best forwards to grace the game, due to his time at all his clubs and internationally. It's not just goals that separate the great players, but their overall game and the lasting impression they leave upon us.