Champions League

Why Karim Benzema was the best player in the 2021/22 Champions League

Sean Walsh
Image by 90min
Image by 90min /

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The Champions League player of the season is brought to you by 90min's 'Football Tackles' charity of the week: KLABU.

KLABU believe that young people in refugee camps have hopes and dreams beyond just survival. And this is where KLABU sees an opportunity to add value to a refugee's life, using the power of sport to (re)ignite the spirit of refugees.

How they do that is though building sports clubs in refugee camps to help refugees rebuild their lives. KLABU make way for moments of play to take the stage, allowing refugees to break down barriers, build confidence and create friendships - through the power of sport, together on the field.

To find out more about KLABU, click here.

Why Karim Benzema was the best player in the 2021/22 Champions League

Playing for Real Madrid isn't like playing for any old football club.

Los Blancos are an institution, the biggest team in the world. It doesn't matter what your understanding of the sport is, you will know who Real Madrid are.

That comes with an extra set of pressures, of course. Real Madrid are expected to win every game they play, every competition they enter. Only the best is good enough.

During the 2010s, the club dominated Europe again thanks in large parts to the efforts of Cristiano Ronaldo at his brilliant best. However, years of disappointments at a level just below that of his prime preceded their dominance. That's how high the level of expectation is - you have to be an all-time great player to lead Real Madrid.

When Ronaldo left in 2018, he was already declining by his lofty standards. There were question marks over how Los Blancos could possibly replace his output, and it seemed ludicrous to think Karim Benzema - who finished the 2017/18 season with just 12 goals in 47 games - would be able to step up.

But without having to play second fiddle to Ronaldo's scoring exploits, Benzema has thrived as the main man. In the four seasons post-Ronaldo, the Frenchman has totalled 30, 27, 30 and 44 goals across all competitions.

It was that fourth season - the most recent one gone, the year Real Madrid claimed their 14th European Cup - where Benzema became the best player in the world, an unquestionable legend in the club's storied history.

They became a different beast in the knockout stages and refused to be beat - they had that fear factor and inevitability to them once again thanks to Benzema's presence. His goals against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City on their way to the final were the clearest proof you needed that he was the most dangerous man on the planet within 25 yards of the opposition net.

History is written by the victor, and this Champions League season that victor was Benzema. It's not even close.