‘Without a doubt’ Benzema is one of the strongest.
“Benzema took credit for reviving the belief of a team that seemed to be creaking, and to a large extent they are, but they still find something more,” El Pais wrote.
“There are no questions that Benzema belongs to the most prestigious class of footballers,” Marca said. “He jolted the team awake,” AS wrote.
When Benzema signed his first professional contract with Lyon, he was required to make an initiation speech at a squad dinner, and the cocky 20-year-old irritated some of the senior players by telling them he would soon take their place.
Thirteen years later, he is the fourth most prolific goalscorer in Champions League history, tied with Raul on 71, behind only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Robert Lewandowski.
If recognition has come late, it is due in part to Benzema’s saving of his best for last, his blossoming into an elegant yet lethal number nine occurring after many had perhaps made up their minds: Ronaldo’s support act could never be among the very best himself.
But, just as his late equaliser against Atletico Madrid last month kept Real Madrid alive in La Liga, his intervention against Chelsea kept them alive in the Champions League as well.
“Nothing shocks me about Karim,” said Zidane, who had taken him off in the 89th minute, a move intended to give the home crowd a chance to applaud.
Instead, Zidane walked in, a smile on his face, a hand on his shoulder, another moment seized and the final in sight.