Real Madrid

Karim Benzema steals the headlines in the Kylian Mbappe derby

Tom Gott
Benzema put on one of the all-time great European performances
Benzema put on one of the all-time great European performances / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

There has been so much attention on Kylian Mbappe ever since his Paris Saint-Germain side were drawn against his would-be future employers Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16.

"Who's the next Ballon d'Or winner going to be playing for next season?" was a common question, just as it has been for months.

In reality, the answer to that might have nothing to do with Mbappe. Enter Karim Benzema.

Mbappe stole the stage in the first leg and threatened to do so in the second when he had PSG 1-0 ahead at half-time, but Benzema was having absolutely none of it.

Reminding the world of just how good he really is, Benzema put on an absolute clinic in finishing as he netted three goals in a little over 16 second-half minutes to make sure that he remains on top of the football world.

His energy and pressure on Gianluigi Donnarumma led to the equaliser, with Benzema forcing the turnover in possession and tapping home from a Vinicius Junior cutback, but he was only just getting started.

16 minutes later, Benzema had a second. Constantly in the right place and just waiting for the perfect ball, which eventually came from the excellent Luka Modric, Benzema thundered through his defender to level things up on aggregate.

There would be no such wait for the third. Real needed just 12 more seconds to get the ball back into the PSG net, and surprise surprise, it was Benzema again.

Not only did Benzema win his side the tie and book Real a spot in the Champions League last eight, but he may well have scored the goals that convince Mbappe that his future lies in Madrid instead of Paris.

Mbappe was excellent for PSG but completely let down by some abysmal defending from his team-mates, who put on perhaps their greatest capitulation in recent memory to hand this tie to Real.

PSG wanted to convince Mbappe that he can win the Champions League in Paris, but Benzema proved to him that he can't. You need a team full of winners like Benzema, and Mbappe will only find that at the Santiago Bernabeu.

We'll be talking about this performance from Benzema for years to come, but for a multitude of reasons. He won the tie and he may well have ensured Real win the race for Mbappe's signature in the process.

Wherever they are playing next year, the pair will undoubtedly be towards the top of the 2022 Ballon d'Or podium. Mbappe is many fans' favourite, but performances like this will force Benzema even higher. Victory, at the age of 34, would be so richly deserved.