Of the long list of questions that Karim Benzema answered by email (including voice messages, the latest fashion) due to his club’s imposition, the Real Madrid nine only avoided one about his reputation for being clueless, another about homophobia in football and a third about their favorite cars.
The rest, many dedicated to his childhood, his family, his relationship with money or failure, he answered them in French rich in onomatopoeia. Even in writing, Benzema seems a man with an easy laugh. He arrived at the photo session after going through the pits in the spa of the new luxury hotel in Madrid, manicure included.
Relaxed and charming, he showed why he is more than just a soccer star. If Maradona is an icon at the height of Marlon Brando andMessi would come to be Al Pacino, Karim Benzema (Lyon, 1987) belongs to the exclusive Robert Mitchum club, that is, those who possess the perspicacity of the coolest on the planet. If it seems exaggerated, make a note of this answer:
– How important is friendship in your life?
“I only have one friend.” Which shows that friendship is very important to me.
Perhaps the secret of that attitude is in a childhood that remembers idyllic. When asked if he believes that money brings happiness, he replies: “Nobody agrees. Money makes many things easier, but it doesn’t take millions to be happy.
When I was little, I had nothing at all. But he was happy ”. Benzema remembers those days glued to a ball: “I could spend a whole day kicking it against the wall and the garage of my house. I was a child who lived only for football ”.
It was his father who, seeing the boy’s gifts, pushed him into sport, sometimes harshly. “I was demanding, but thanks to that I have a mentality of steel. Of course, I am grateful to you. If today I am who I am, it is because of that education ”.
In line with his childhood, he assures that he never had idols, but models. “I come from a neighborhood where things were difficult. When I saw older boys well dressed and with nice cars, what I wanted was to be like them. In football, I would say that Ronaldo , the Brazilian, was a model for me ”.
In his social networks (no less than 37 million followers on Instagram) , Benzema usually limits himself to his training routine, although there is also room for his two children, some pose next to one of his millionaire cars or paying tribute to figures like him boxer Mike Tyson and slain ’90s hip hop idol Tupac Shakur. “I admire Tyson because we both came from the bottom and we went up little by little. We never had it easy and they never gave us anything ”.
Trained at the Olympique de Lyon , in whose first team he made his debut at age 17, Benzema was an early winner who was already winning titles and scoring goals while still a teenager. Already then he was pointing out elegant footballer ways and, why not, a bit cold.
Those who understand football as a contact sport do not fully appreciate it. Those who see this activity as something between dance and chess, love it.
He landed in Madrid a decade ago and confesses that adapting was not easy. “I was only 21 years old, I was alone and my family could not accompany me. I used to spend all my time with them, so my beginnings were difficult ”. Despite being reserved with his love life, the player cultivates his image of a great father with Melia, a seven-year-old girl, and Ibrahim, born in Madrid three years ago.
“Social networks allow me to be close to my fans. And to the people who love me I have to show them, from time to time, something more than football. That is why I sometimes post photographs with my children. I am a father, I have wonderful children and my life has changed. I don’t think about what will become of me in 10 years. The main thing is that my children are happy ”.
International with the French national team 81 times and fifth top scorer in the history of Real Madrid, Benzema denies that the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo has freed the predator from the area within him. The fact is that just three years ago he was shooting at the door less than ever and today he is the author of almost a third of the goals of his team.
With Bale and Ronaldo away from Madrid, the Frenchman is the natural leader of the squad, the guy on whom the burden falls that this season is not something a club like Real Madridcan’t afford: a transition year. “The only thing I would say is that Cristiano’s departure allowed me to play a different role. He was scoring 50 or 60 goals a year and you had to adapt to his game.
He is one of the best in the world and I was happy by his side ”. He also speaks without reservation about his relationship with Zinedine Zidane: “He is an older brother to me. Off the pitch, he is always there to advise me ”. When asked if the roots unite them, the player once again demonstrates his ability to dribble: “We only speak the same language,” he laughs.
The scandal over the alleged blackmail of his teammate Valbuena left him out of the French team, a painful chapter in his career. He could have been part of that France that won the 2018 World Cup. “In a race there are always ups and downs and that was a very low point. But every human being faces challenges. Mine are big, but I have enough back and psychological capacity to fit them. I am not giving up ”.
He assures that his greatest virtue is tenacity, that he accepts criticism but tries not to read it to protect himself. That calm and that distance from him are often interpreted as a certain disdain. Does Benzema protect himself from the outside while maintaining that apparent coldness? “It is not true that nothing affects me.
I have feelings, but I will never show my weaknesses, even if I have them. When I’m bad I keep it to myself ”. Reminding him of the meme that turned his dribbling on the line against Godín, Savic and Giménez into a museum painting in the 2017 Champions League semi-final, the player acknowledges that it was a “very beautiful” action due to “the movement, the vision, speed and dribbling ”. He considers it one of his best plays.
His fondness for fast cars is known (in his networks there are copies of Porsche, Lamborghini or the Bugatti Chiron that he showed on Instagram in December). Also to music, especially rap. “Who doesn’t like cars and music? Right now I listen to Big Ben, a boy from my neighborhood ”.
He also cites rappers like Ninho, a young musician who has become a phenomenon in France, or the famous Booba , also controversial for destroying the Duty Free at Orly airport in a fight. As the footballer usually wears Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers , the question also seems obliged: “I haven’t listened to rap for a long time.American, but, I don’t know, his shoes are cool and I wear them, ”he says.
The fashion industry can search for all the conceptual alibis it wants, but for Benzema, one of its most celebrated clients, the matter is much simpler. “I don’t have favorite clothes, I like everything I wear. Even a tracksuit can be nice, it depends on how you wear it and with what ”.
He does not consider himself presumptuous: “Why do you want to worry about your image if you are the way you are? You have to like yourself, if you wait for people to tell you that they like you, you didn’t understand anything ”.
Regarding his favorite smell or perfume, the player responds with a laugh: “I always smell good! I have many fragrances. But I can’t say what perfume is or everyone will want to buy it, ”he laughs.
When talking about how the pandemic has affected football, the player is resigned. “I hope we get out of this chaos soon. We don’t like to play without an audience, but we’ve gotten used to it. As we love football, we are happy just playing, ”he says without mentioning that Ballon d’Or that was canceled in 2020 and that, given his recent performance, could easily have been his.
Regarding racism in stadiums, the player assures that it has always existed. “It should never happen. It is disgusting, horrible and dirty. We are all the same. I have not suffered racist comments, although they have insulted me ”. How do you react when that happens? The answer is once again worthy of Robert Mitchum: “I am focused on my football. My ears are elsewhere ”.