Karim Benzema (born 19 December 1987) is a French football player of Algerian heritage who currently plays as a striker for the La Liga club Real Madrid and internationally represents the French national football team.
Benzema came through the youth academy at Lyon and has been capped at senior level for France. He played in UEFA Euro 2008 and was the top goalscorer in Ligue 1 for the 2007–08 season, just three seasons after making his professional debut. This was also his breakthrough season which saw him earn many awards and a new contract which resulted in him becoming one of the highest-paid footballers in France. He signed for Real Madrid in July 2009, on a six year contract.
Benzema was born in Lyon, to parents of Kabyle Algerian race. Benzema grew up with nine siblings and his father Hafid in the district of Bron. His grandfather, Da Lakehal Benzema, lived in the village of Tighzert, located in the northern town of Beni Djellil in Algeria before migrating to Lyon, where he eventually settled in the 1950s.
On 18 April 2010, it was first reported by French television service M6 that four members of the French national team were being investigated for their roles as clients of a prostitution ring that was being operated inside of a Paris nightclub with some of the women possibly being underage. The report also stated that two of the players were already questioned as witnesses by judge André Dando and a group of magistrates. The report described the two players as being one who “is a major player in a big foreign club” and that the other “plays in the championship of France Ligue 1″. Later that day, the players were discovered to be Franck Ribéry and Sidney Govou. The other two players were later discovered to be Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa. Benzema was alleged to have had a sexual rendezvous with a prostitute when she was 16 years of age, an act Benzema has denied through his lawyer. On 29 April, the country’s Secretary of State for Sports Rama Yade, after refusing to publicly comment on the case in its infancy, declared that any player placed under investigation should not represent the France national team. The following day, a judicial source confirmed that Benzema would not be questioned, if at all, before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. On 20 July, Benzema was questioned by Paris police and, following questioning, was indicted by judge Dando on the charge of “solicitation of a minor prostitute”.
Benzema is a graduate of the Lyon. Before joining Lyon, he trained at local Rhône-Alpes club Bron Terraillon SC in the commune Bron, a suburb of Lyon. His performances with Bron’s youth team caught the attention of Lyon scouts and he joined the academy in 1996 at the age of 9. Benzema quickly ascended up the ranks scoring 38 goals in one season with Lyon’s under-16 team and scoring 12 goals in 14 matches with the under-18 team before earning a call up to the senior squad by manager Paul Le Guen.
He made his league debut for Lyon on 15 January 2005 during the 2004–05 season in a match against FC Metz, coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute. Lyon won the match 2–0 with Benzema providing the assist on the second goal scored by Bryan Bergougnoux. Five days later, he signed his first professional contract, agreeing to a three-year deal. Over the next two seasons, his play was limited making a total of 34 appearances and scoring six goals, including his first ever against AC Ajaccio in a 3–1 win, as well as his first UEFA Champions League goal against Norwegian club Rosenborg BK in a 2–1 victory.
For the 2007–08 season, with the likes of Florent Malouda, John Carew, and Sylvain Wiltord all departing from the club, Benzema, despite being 19 at the time, switched to the number 10 shirt and was inserted into the lead striker role. After forming a special relationship with new manager Alain Perrin, he responded with 31 goals in 51 games. He topped the league with 20 goals, scored four goals in the UEFA Champions League, one in the Coupe de la Ligue, and totaled six goals in six Coupe de France matches, helping Lyon win their first ever double. Some of his more dazzling performances that season included a hat trick against Metz on 15 September, an equalizing goal in the 90th minute from a free kick against Derby du Rhône rivals Saint-Étienne, and a goal against RC Lens that was nominated for goal of the season by fans.
In the Champions League, Benzema scored an important double against Rangers at Ibrox Park on the last match day of the group stage. The 3–0 victory assured Lyon progression to the knockout rounds. In the knockout rounds, Lyon faced Manchester United and Benzema continued to score, this time it was from outside the penalty box in the first leg match which ended in a 1–1 draw and United eventually won the tie 1–2 on aggregate. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and players praised Benzema for his performance. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas later accused Ferguson of tapping-up Benzema.
On 13 March 2008, Benzema extended his contract with Lyon until 2013 with a one year extension option. After signing his new contract, Benzema became one of the highest paid footballers in France. For his efforts that season, he was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year, selected to the Team of the Year, and awarded the Trophée du Meilleur Buteur for being the league’s top scorer. He was also shortlisted by the French magazine France Football for the 2008 Ballon d’Or award, won by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Benzema got off to a good start for the 2008–09 season scoring twice in Lyon’s opening league match against Toulouse. The following three weeks, he scored goals against Rhône-Alpes rivals Grenoble and Saint-Étienne and scored a goal against OGC Nice, converting a penalty in the dying seconds. Lyon won all three matches. As a result of his early goals, Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas quelled the many transfer rumors surrounding Benzema by placing a €100 million price tag on the striker. He was also nominated alongside Franck Ribéry to be featured on the French cover of the video game FIFA 09.
He scored his seventh goal of the league on 29 October, scoring in the 2–0 win over Sochaux. Benzema scored again the following weekend in a 2–0 win over Le Mans. He was among the top scorers in the UEFA Champions League group stage, scoring five goals, a double against Steaua Bucureşti, two goals in two matches against Fiorentina, and a goal against the eventual group winners Bayern Munich on the final match day.
Following the winter break, Benzema endured a rough patch going scoreless the first three games before recording his 11th goal of the season against Nice in a 3–1 victory. Two weeks later, he scored his 12th goal against Nancy in a 2–0 victory. The next nine matches, both Benzema and Lyon’s form dwindled losing four matches, drawing three, and winning only two with Benzema scoring only two goals in that stretch, both of them against Le Mans in a 3–1 victory. The bad form resulted in Lyon losing their grip on first place position and eventually falling out of the title race, thus ending their streak of seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. Benzema was a part of four of those title runs.
Despite losing the title, Benzema got back on track scoring his 15th and 16th goals of the season on 17 May in a 3–1 away victory over rivals Marseille, the first goal being a penalty. He scored his 17th goal the following weekend against Caen in a 3–1 victory moving him into third place among Ligue 1 top scorers.
On 1 July 2009, it was announced that Lyon had reached an agreement with Spanish club Real Madrid for the transfer of Benzema. The transfer fee was priced at €35 million with the fee rising to as much as €41 million based on incentives. On 9 July, Benzema successfully passed his medical and signed his contract, a six-year deal, later that afternoon. He was presented officially as a Real Madrid player later that night at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, similarly to the previous signings of Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo. Benzema made his Real Madrid debut on 20 July in the club’s opening pre-season friendly against Irish club Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, appearing as a halftime substitute. He scored the lone goal in the club’s 1–0 win, scoring in the 87th minute. On 24 August, Benzema netted two goals in Real Madrid’s 4–0 victory over Norwegian club Rosenborg in an annual friendly tournament organized for the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy. The goals brought his total tally in the preseason with Real Madrid to five, making him the joint top scorer alongside fellow striker Raúl.
He made his La Liga debut on 29 August against Deportivo de La Coruña. Benzema scored his first official goal for Madrid on 20 September 2009 at home against newly promoted side Xerez in a 5-0 victory. Six days later he netted his first brace for the club in a 3-0 home victory over Tenerife. On November 3, Benzema netted his first European goal for Madrid in a 1-1 draw against AC Milan at the San Siro. On January 30, 2010, he scored his second brace for the club against Deportivo. On December 8, Benzema netted a hat-trick in a 4-0 Champions League victory over Auxerre, the first goal being Real Madrid’s 300th goal in the Champions League. He also netted a hat-trick against Levante in a Copa del Rey match.
In 2004, he was a part of the under-17 squad that won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship, the nation’s first ever. In the tournament, which was played on home soil, Benzema scored one goal against Northern Ireland in the group stage. Benzema later played with the under-18 team at the 2005 edition of the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup. He played in all four matches scoring a tournament-leading five goals helping France win the tournament. During the 2005–06 season, he played with the under-19 team making eight appearances scoring four goals before earning a call up to the under-21 squad who were attempting to qualify for the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship. Benzema made only five appearances with the team scoring no goals. His final appearances with the squad was in their shocking two-legged loss to Israel in the qualifying playoffs to determine the participants in the UEFA under-21 tournament.
Before representing France, Benzema was eligible for Algeria and was called up to the squad by the Fédération Algérienne de Football in December 2006, but turned them down stating, “Algeria is my parents’ country and it is in my heart, but football-wise I will only play for the French national team.” On 28 March 2007, Benzema won his first cap for France against Austria, scoring the only goal in a 1–0 win for France. His next two goals came in one game against the Faroe Islands, who France subsequently beat 6–0.
He was selected to represent France at Euro 2008. France’s Euro 2008 campaign opened with a 0–0 draw against Romania and after a frustrating performance, he was substituted in the second half and played no part in their following game, a 1–4 defeat to the Netherlands. In the last group game, France lost 2–0 to Italy and Benzema featured in the starting lineup. He has now adopted the number 10 for France. He scored his first goal since adopting the jersey from the penalty spot against Turkey on 5 June 2009 in a friendly where they won 1–0.
Benzema was left out of France’s preliminary 30-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup announced by manager Raymond Domenech on 11 May 2010. Domenech cited his poor season with Real Madrid, rather than his alleged involvement in a sex scandal.
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