Karim Benzema says he is enjoying life at Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo, as he can play his “true football” rather than continually serve the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Ronaldo spent nine years at Real and became a talismanic figure at the Santiago Bernabeu, leaving for Juventus in the summer as the club’s all-time leading scorer with 450 goals in 438 games.
Benzema also moved to the Spanish capital in the summer of 2009, joining from French club Lyon, and was forced to adapt his game to accommodate Ronaldo – often facing criticism for his lack of goals.
“Before there was a guy who scored more than 50 goals per season and my role was to provide assists,” the striker said. “I played to help Cristiano, we formed a good partnership. I was always looking for him with the intention of helping him to score even more goals.”
“Now though, I’m the leader of the attack. It’s up to me to make the difference. I’m very happy because now I can play my real football.”
Benzema, 31, has won two La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey twice and four Champions League trophies since joining Real from Lyon.
“There have been many sacrifices. Everyone knows that in a career there are some highs and lows and, when I arrived at Real in 2009, I was initially surprised. Because Lyon, in comparison with Madrid, is small, the institution, administration, everything which goes around the club.
“I knew there would be barriers to overcome because it is the best club in the world. And I have succeeded.”
Benzema enjoyed 10 fruitful years alongside one of football’s all-time greats, forming an unspoken link with the Portuguese attacker that would help propel the Spanish capital club to two La Liga crowns and four Champions League titles.