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Karim Benzema produced one of the greatest ever Champions League displays as his Real Madrid side knocked PSG out of the competition.
The striker netted a stunning hat-trick to send the Spanish outfit into the quarter-finals. His superb finishing and knack for being in the right place at the right time proved crucial. Benzema bagged his three goals in just 17 minutes.
It completely turned the tie on its head. Madrid won 3-1 on the night, securing a 3-2 aggregate win. They join Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Liverpool in teams to have qualified so far for the next stage.
With all the talent on display – including Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe for PSG – it was veteran striker Benzema who stole the show.
Mbappe, however, was a constant threat. The youngster scored another stunning goal, but even he was outdone by his compatriot. It begs the question then, is Benzema the most underrated player in world football?
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 9, 2022
Just how good is Benzema?
Benzema has always been one of Europe’s leading strikers. But for various reasons, he has often been overlooked when it comes to ranking the very best.
Perhaps it was because Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the headlines when the pair played together in the Spanish capital. Even Gareth Bale stole much of the headlines during his peak time there.
But Benzema has remained consistent, and has always been able to find the back of the net. The forward is unselfish, composed, and a true finisher. Fortunately, despite his underrated status, he will go down as a Real Madrid legend.
He netted his first Champions League hat-trick as a youngster for Lyon back in 2007. 15 years later, he is still doing what he does best. At 34 years and 80 days, he has now become the oldest player to score a hat-trick in the competition.
Importantly, he hasn’t stopped in all those years in between. The Frenchman is now the first player to score in 18 successive calendar years in the Champions League.
Moreover, he is now third in Real Madrid’s all-time goalscoring charts. His 309 goals sees him overtake the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano (308). Only Cristiano Ronaldo (451) and Raul (323) are ahead of him in the leaderboard.
Benzema’s insane tally for the current campaign now stands at 30 goals from 33 matches in all competitions. 20 of those have come in 24 league games, with eight arriving in seven Champions League matches. He also netted two goals in two Spanish Supercopa games.
Have Real Madrid already secured Mbappe?
If this season’s Champions League has taught us anything, it is that heart and desire have what it takes to overcome talent.
A PSG team including Messi, Neymar and Mbappe managed just 13 goals from their six group matches. In their own group alone, they were outscored by both Man City and RB Leipzig.
One shining light has, however, been the individual displays of Mbappe. The forward has once again taken the competition by storm. With Messi and Neymar seemingly non-existent for much of the tournament so far, the burden has fallen on Mbappe’s young shoulders.
But the 23-year-old has hit six goals from his eight matches. Two of those arrived in the last 16 encounter against Madrid. He’s also chipped in with six assists.
Many within the game believe he deserves better than PSG, and that a move to Madrid isn’t too far away.