Karim Benzema was once on Manchester City’s transfer wish list, but now he’s the main obstacle in their bid to reach a second successive Champions League final.
Age really is just a number when it comes to Real Madrid’s striker. At 34-years-old, the France international is as lethal in front of goal as ever.
The departure of former strike partner Cristiano Ronaldo seems to have posed as no obstacle to Benzema, and like a fine wine, he seems to be getting riper with age, topping his own personal Real Madrid goal scoring record this season.
The Frenchman has a mammoth 39 goals in 40 matches in all competitions this term, leading to him being touted by many as a Ballon d’Or award contender.
And unfortunately for his next opponents, 12 of those goals have come in the Champions League.
However, it could have all been so different for City. Rather than having to contain the lethal striker, Guardiola’s side could have had him in their ranks.
Back in November 2021, it was reported by Spanish media that City were keen to secure the Frenchman in January.
Most read in Football
It seemed Benzema had the perfect CV – plenty of experience, whilst still firing regularly and wanting to remain as the leading marksman amid rumours of younger alternatives coming to the Santiago Bernabéu.
It was also suggested that the club were in touch with the player’s representatives.
However, as the January transfer window ticked by, no deal materialised, and City have remained without a natural centre-forward since.
And now – as if facing Atletico Madrid in the last round wasn’t tough enough – Benzema could be the one standing in City’s way of finally winning the Champions League.
Guardiola won the prestigious competition back in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona, but has been unable to do the same with City, falling at the last hurdle against Chelsea last season.
Guardiola’s centre-backs will be faced with a tricky challenge, and Benzema’s also worrying the midfielders.
“He is in the best moment of his career,” Rodri said ahead of the match.
“He understands every part of the game and is scoring goals, important goals.
“I would say f****** hell, this guy is amazing in every game and he not only scores goals but makes his team feel comfortable with the ball and as Ancelotti says he is the modern striker in football, so we have to be aware of him and all of Real Madrid.
“I played against him for a few years and he is a great player but not only him, in terms of quality they always have that.”
City will also need to deal with potential injury blows in the form of Kyle Walker, John Stones and even Kevin De Bruyne.
“I don’t know if Kyle will arrive, and John will be difficult too,“ Guardiola said after City’s win over Watford at the weekend.
“Kevin, it looks like has had some disturbing niggles in his ankles for the kicks he got in the last game. It is not just Madrid, it’s Leeds [on Saturday] as well [I am thinking about].
The LaLiga giants have their own injury concerns, however.
Real Madrid will be without Casemiro, who will be a huge miss in their defensive play – meaning City’s fast-moving midfield could pose a real threat to the less mobile Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. David Alaba is also an absentee.
City also managed to secure victory against the same opponents in the competition last year, winning 4-2 on aggregate in the round of 16.
But this tie could be a whole lot closer if Benzema is on top form.
Betting Offer Of The Day
Get 6/1 Man City to win or 40/1 Real Madrid (£5 max bet)* – CLAIM HERE
Deposit min £/$/€10 using promo code 888ODDS • Bet up to £/$/€5 on your selection at normal odds in the regular market • If your selection wins, we’ll pay you out at the normal price and any extra winnings from the advertised enhanced price will be paid to you in Free Bets • Free Bets are granted within 72 hours and expire after 7 days • Free Bet stakes are not included in returns • Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time • Restrictions apply to withdrawals, payment methods and countries & Full T&C’s apply 18+ begambleaware.org