Real Madrid’s first official match is arriving quickly (August 12 vs Sevilla – UEFA Super Cup) and it seems that the club will most likely stop signing new players. After Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez and Keylor Navas, the club has a surplus in the goalkeeper and midfielder departments. While players like Di María, Khedira and now Diego López have been linked with an exit from La Casa Blanca, it does not seem that there will be any new faces unless president Florentino Pérez decides to play one of his magic tricks.
With a spectacular midfield and a good defense, there have been too many doubts raised concerning the lack of men in attack. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are wonderful attackers, but they are not made to play like a number 9, as they excel more from the wings. With Álvaro Morata gone, can the team go all season without a backup for Karim Benzema?
Karim has recently renewed his contract with the club until 2019, something he has earned with time and despite the ups and downs throughout his five years with the ‘Merengues’. The French attacker was a personal effort from the team’s president when he was reelected in 2009; he brought Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso alongside Benzema. Madrid went from having a plethora of strikers like Raúl, Higuaín, Negredo, Van Nistelrooy, Huntelaar and Saviola, to settling with the first, two plus Ronaldo and Benzema.
Purchased to be a striker, Karim is part of a new breed of attackers that aren’t completely focused on finishing the plays, but creating chances for his teammates. The French star could almost be seen as a number 10 disguising as a number 9.
Benzema has been criticized heavily throughout the years for lacking that killer instinct from true strikers, but people need to understand that he’s more of a team player. The fact that he’s still on the team and just won the Champions League says a lot about his talent. Other players have not taken the criticism well and decided to succeed elsewhere.
Much has been said that the Frenchman works better without the pressure of having a competitor. The numbers don’t really say that, since last season he netted 24 goals, his third best out of five seasons as a Madridista. Still, having a powerhouse like Ronaldo certainly hurts your chances of being the team’s top goalscorer.
The number 9 only had Morata threaten his spot last season, and after a rough start, he became part of the lethal BBC. With 24 goals for him, 22 for Bale and 51 for Ronaldo, the true secret behind their success was the number of assists given. The Frenchman gave 15, the Welsh 17 and the Portugese 14.
Playing with each other and with their teammates has been key. Normally, you don’t see the killer breed of strikers getting to double digits in the assists department. Benzema’s role as a pivot and the brain of the BBC is one that other strikers wouldn’t do as well. Ancelotti still needs to test out the new players and experiment with new formations, but it seems that the BBC will live on.
James could prove to be useful as a false 9. Carlo already tested Isco in that role during preseason, with mixed reviews. However, it’s likely that Madrid can go the rest of the season without another striker. Jesé will be able to help the team when he returns in October. That’s a while away, but in the meantime, Ancelotti could resort to youngsters from Zinedine Zidane’s Castilla squad to replace Benzema.
Bringing a high profile striker to compete with Karim will probably hurt his morale and be worse for the team. Bale and Ronaldo could also be a last resort; at least for this season, Los Blancos can definitely cope with just the Frenchman. Should things go very wrong, January isn’t far away and someone could be bought during that transfer window.