There’s no doubting that Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have declined in recent seasons; Benzema’s ability to get himself in goal scoring positions and finish the ball consistently has waned and Ronaldo’s penchant for putting the ball in the back of the net has disappeared for a large portion of this season. There’s a variance argument about those finishing numbers in there somewhere, but beyond that, Ronaldo and Benzema’s overall game has gotten worse thanks to natural aging.
BUT, there’s no denying that this duo have been a tour de force over the breadth of their careers at Madrid. Ronaldo has scored the most goals in club history and has become Madrid’s greatest ever player since making his then record-breaking move to the capital, and Benzema has scored nearly a goal every two games and has shot up in the Champions League scoring charts since transferring from Lyon at the same time as Cristiano.
On top of those achievements, the two have also worked wonderfully together. Karim’s unselfishness and ability to act as a different kind of striker has proved to be the perfect foil for CR7’s supernatural scoring ability and cleverness inside the box. This dynamic can be broken down into four major categories:
1. Swapping positions
Benzema has made it a habit of shifting to the wing to allow Ronaldo to take on the center forward role over the course of their partnership. This serves to confuse their respective markers and allow Cristiano the ability to approach the penalty area from the blind-side. The aforementioned swapping also often appears on the counter-attack, since it allows Ronaldo to be the centerpiece of transition play with his pace and intelligent movement.
2. Sticking to positions
As you’d imagine, this refers to a more traditional winger-striker relationship. i.e. Ronaldo swinging in crosses for Benzema.
3. Benzema as a deeper forward
Benzema quickly developed the ability to drop deep and act as a pseudo-#10 when he arrived in Madrid. This allowed him to pick up the ball in-between the lines before playing penetrative passes into the path of Ronaldo. While Cristiano would be great regardless of who he played with, this is one of the main reasons why the Portuguese hitman is just that much better when playing with the Frenchman.
4. Combination Play.
This is a simple one. Ronaldo and Benzema have developed an incredible chemistry over the years, allowing them to play a game of rondo between each other in order to dissect defenses and score goals.