With Real Madrid star and French international Karim Benzema allegedly on the cusp of a new deal to remain in the Spanish capital, Los Blancos have a very important decision to make. The 29-year-old has been a consistent presence at the Santiago Bernabéu since he signed in 2009 from Ligue 1 giants Lyon, but could the Champions League and La Liga winners be making a mistake?
In statistical terms, the striker has been a fantastic partner in crime to the mercurial talents of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. While playing a secondary role to the Portuguese captain who has usually taken the limelight away from Benzema, he has consistently reached double figures with 180 goals in 365 appearances. More often than not, he has chipped in with a number of important goals in each of his last eight years at Real Madrid, nearly always surpassing the 20-goal-a-season mark that many strikers struggle to reach on a yearly basis.
However, despite his prowess in front of goal and apparent adoration from current manager Zinedine Zidane and Los Blancos president Florentino Pérez, why has he never warmed to the Madridistas that come to watch their favourite stars every week?
Unfortunately, even though he is obviously talented, over the years Benzema has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. There have been claims of turning up for matches and training over weight, his pace has significantly declined and he was omitted from the France squad in recent times because of the sex tape scandal surrounding the forward and Fenerbahçe midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.
Persistent bad publicity and his ban from Les Bleus first team since 2015 has damaged his reputation, as the Real Madrid front man was controversially left out of the previous 2010 World Cup in South Africa, even after shining at club level. Now with new blood coming through the ranks for Les Tricolores such as Monaco sensation Kylian Mbappé, Arsenal target man Olivier Giroud and new £50m signing Alexandre Lacazette, Benzema looks like a man on borrowed time.
As his status in the national team looks like a mere memory after claiming he was not selected by coach Didier Deschamps for the Euros in 2016 "due to pressure from France's racist element", it is important now more than ever that the undervalued striker is given consistent starts to showcase what he can still offer.
He might not be the quickest striker, but he is a solid 7 out of 10 in most departments. With quick feet, an eye for goal, good in the air and adept with his back to goal, Benzema has always been the complete striker and has blossomed over the past eight years in the Spanish capital.
For years, he has been linked with a move to the Premier League as the likes of Arsenal were crying out for a goal scorer of his all-round ability to lead the line at the Emirates. French manager Arsène Wenger has always been an admirer of the enigmatic forward, but has been either consistently priced out of a move for the 29-year-old or Benzema has simply not wished to part ways with a club he clearly loves.
With Los Blancos now reportedly eyeing up the talent of Mbappe as the next Galatico to join Ronaldo and co at the Bernabéu for a huge fee over the €100m mark, now could be the right time for Benzema to bid adios to the club where he has amassed 12 major trophies including three Champions League crowns and two La Liga titles, albeit never being fully appreciated by the fans or his superiors for his team-first approach.