France coach L
Both men are currently trying, and failing, to get the best out of the 22-year-old Benzema, who in his second season in Spain is still struggling for form and fitness.
It was something of a surprise when Benzema, at 21, moved from Lyon to Real Madrid for a fee of $48 million in the same summer it signed
Benzema had definitely outgrown Lyon: in five years there, he won four league titles, one of which was a league and Cup double, and scored 67 goals in 150 appearances. Lyon had become dependent on him and captain
His early days in Spain were difficult: he made the mistake of telling the French press that
Benzema's relationship with Les Bleus has always been a complicated one. If anything, Benzema set expectations too high for himself with three goals in his first five internationals when he was 19. He had already scored 16 in 50 Lyon games, and his stats compared favorably with France's best strikers: at the same age with their clubs,
The problems really began at Euro 2008, at which Benzema and
He was criticized from all sides: for not repeating his Lyon performances for Les Bleus, not getting on with
In the home draw with Romania last year, Benzema caused a national outcry when he admitted that he couldn't be bothered to try after coming on as a substitute. In the rush to condemn him, Arsenal coach
So with Blanc and Mourinho, two new coaches, now overseeing him, this was supposed to be his moment. "I want to show fans the real Benzema," he told Spanish media in preseason but Mourinho has been far from impressed, and more than once has bawled him out in front of teammates at training. "If it was up to him, I'd take training in the afternoon as he's asleep when it starts at 10, and he still hasn't woken up by 11," Mourinho told
Blanc feels the same, and has repeatedly, and publicly, urged Benzema to regain the mental and physical sharpness he had at Lyon. When
Benzema still has a great chance to cement his place as France's first-choice centre-forward but Blanc must be getting frustrated at saying the same thing over again: "He needs to be on top of his game so that he's ready to seize his chance when gets it." Benzema has only played 205 minutes for Real Madrid this season, and though his match sharpness may be rusty, his fitness level should be high.
In Spain, reports have already surfaced that Mourinho is prepared to get rid of Benzema in January, possibly to his former club Inter Milan in return for