Walking along Paphos harbour a couple of weeks ago with my new wife on our honeymoon I turned to her with a slightly slanted eyebrow, chesty as a peacock and quite arrogantly said ” Do you know who will be the player of the tournament?”, “Who?” was her reply to a question she didn’t fully understand, “Karim Benzema” (in a sort of slightly foreign tone – in the way I thought an Algerian would pronounce his name). “Watch” I said, knowing gladly that she wouldn’t even watch 34 seconds of the finals, “He’ll take the Championships by storm”. My Alan Hansen moment was concluded yesterday with Benzema and his French pals sent packing from Euro 2008.
My question, although not as comical as Domenech’s marriage proposal five minutes after the final whistle, was to me a fair but doomed question from the start. Fair because the 20 year old had taken France by storm scoring 21 goals in 37 games (and adding 7 assists to his name) for the French Champions but doomed because of the aging legs that surrounded him in the two games that he played. France were a shambles, which although us English are meant to laugh at – I could help but remember the players of the last ten years that had written Les Blues into football history. The most noticeable absentee is the magical Zidane – whom the side were crying out for in the finals. Benzema (although a full 15 years younger than Zidane) would have benefited immensely from the attacking passing, creativity and flair (to create space) of the magical number 10. This French side mainly operated in a 4-4-2 with two deep lying center midfielders (Makelele and Toulalon) and relied on Benzema, Henry/Anelka, Ribery and the amazingly overrated Malouda to score the goals and make things happen. Benzema at times showed what he is capable of, brushing aside his markers and bursting past defenders to only run into another challenge or be crowded out. I believe Benzema’s failure to set the tournament alight was mainly down to the team that he was in rather than the contribution of the player himself.
So what made me come out with this crazy prediction in the first place for a player so young and inexperience but bursting with potential, talent and enthusiasm? Well, the two games against United this season the lad was immense – one of the best performers against us in the tournament. If you’re not a United fan you may not have heard about it due to the fact there was another game on that night but anyone that saw the goal he scored in the Stade de Gerland will remember what a classy striker he is. For this reason I felt that he would be a fantastic player at United and I really do hope that, even though he didn’t set the summer alight, he makes a move to Manchester as we’d love him at Old Trafford and i’m guessing so would Fergie.
So would you welcome Karim Benzema to the club? If so and you think it is possible what type of money do you think he will command? Maybe this could be the time to part exchange Saha? I can’t imagine him coming cheap and I think that Lyon will want £25Million+ for the boy, they’re no mugs, after all they sold Malouda to Chelsea for £13.5Million!