In Sketch of a General Theory of Magic, the father of French anthropology Marcel Mauss points out that the magician has faith because the community takes him seriously, and takes him seriously because he desperately needs to believe in his power. Something of that happens with Karim Benzema, the sorcerer that this Wednesday will perform at the Camp Nou dressed in white to repeat his old repertoire only this time with more faith, since he knows that now they will take him seriously.
Erick Mombaerts, U21 coach of France between 2008 and 2012, is one of the technicians who has followed more closely the evolution of the phenomenon since he directed him in the lower categories of Clairefontaine. "With Benzema," he explains, "we must highlight an evolution. Zidane gave him a lot of confidence since he was part of Madrid's coaching staff in 2013, and started to play better with more regularity. This does not mean I scored more goals. More than a goalscorer, Karim has been an offensive game animator. A fluidifier. One that links and coordinates movements. Why is it more effective now? For two reasons".
"First," says Mombaerts, "because psychologically he has freed himself from the weight of Christian. For ten years the Madrid game was designed so that the actions ended in Cristiano. Cristiano monopolized the definition and the other players accepted it. Second, because now Benzema has irreplaceable technical qualities as a man who articulates the game of Madrid in the last few meters. Madrid needs this figure and also needs a scorer. He has the technical expertise to finish. He just needed to get in the mental position: be ready, be in the right place, stay calm … In the absence of Bale, who could make more goals, Karim has shown that he has matured to take on this challenge and this responsibility. His experience helps him to put himself at the service of the team at an obviously difficult time. He is not a charismatic leader. He is a technical leader. "
Sold Christian and without Bale news, managers, fans, the media, colleagues and their coach, have been slow to convert to benzemism They even make him play with a broken finger because they can not deprive themselves of their talent so they can continue doing what they always do. The statistics do not show a productive jump compared to previous seasons. Since the 2009-10 academic year their average goals per game in all competitions with Madrid has been, successively, 0.3; 0.5; 0.6; 0.4; 0.5; 0.5; 0.8; 0.4; 0.3 and, now, 0.5. That is to say, that he has 18 goals in 35 games and is in his average.
"We attended the best version of Benzema", says Jean Guy Wallemme, who as a player was champion of France with Lens and as a coach made Varane debut in Ligue 1, in addition to specializing in Maghreb football. "Because Karim is clearly more effective than other years," he explains. "With fewer opportunities to score, in a more difficult context, without the accompaniment of the team's game, he has been able to maintain his performance. Madrid's game has declined over the last decade but he is at his level. "
"Playing without Cristiano is not an advantage for anyone, nor for Benzema," warns Wallemme. "This only affects his status as a leader. It gives you more responsibility and you may feel more liberated. It suits you. But I am more struck by their physical form. He is skinny and strong. This improves the changes of pace and direction, two qualities that sharpen your dribble and make it more complicated to score when you give a couple of meters. Karim is of North African origin and the Maghrebi player has a particular physiognomy. Sub-Saharan players are tough, fibrous by nature, and find it hard to be overweight. The Maghrebis do not. For the footballers of Karim's profile, weight is more important than for others. Its worst moments of game usually coincide with episodes of overweight. Now he is clearly ready. He moves like he's 20 years old. "
Mombaerts adds a nuance: "Perhaps his excellent fitness is due to that, unfortunately for him – and fortunately for Madrid – he did not play the World Cup. The players who have gone to the World Cup look much less fresh than Karim. He has saved international matches with what that means by spending physical and mental energy. This is being paid by others, such as Marcelo, Modric, or Kroos. "
At 31 Benzema lives a magical moment. His personal splendor coincides with the start of the darkest season of Madrid so far this century.