Benzema finally on glory path

Having shed some seven kilos last summer, Karim Benzema is finally delivering at the highest level and is on the verge of completing a vintage season as the European championship finals loom.

Benzema, 24, who joined Real Madrid from Olympique Lyon in 2009, has matured into a dangerous all-round striker, all his hard work paying off as he shows his true class.

He has played an increasing part in play-making and defensive duties, to add to his silky touch and eye for goal, earning praise from Real coach Jose Mourinho.

'Benzema has improved all-round, every aspect of his game. He is stronger, both in his body and in his mind, and understands the game a lot better,' said Mourinho last November.

Two years ago, Benzema was overlooked for the 2010 World Cup and was struggling to settle at Real despite being one of President Florentino Perez's boys.

Things have changed radically since Benzema took advice from Mourinho and France coach Laurent Blanc, who suggested he needed a much better diet to make his mark.

A summer trip to Merano, Italy, to a high performance clinic helped Benzema get into shape and meet the demands of top level football, earning praise from Blanc.

'Benzema has learned from his past mistakes,' he said. 'The important thing is not to repeat mistakes and we believe that Benzema is one of the best strikers in Europe when he is fit.'

Benzema became Real's first choice number nine at the expense of Argentine Gonzalo Higuain, becoming the most prolific French striker in La Liga history ahead of Zinedine Zidane.

Benzema also showed great improvement with Les Bleus, scoring five goals from 15 appearances under Blanc, notably against Brazil and England.

He has forged highly effective on-field partnerships with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Mesut Ozil, both scoring goals and dishing them up on a plate for team-mates.

Whether his France team mates will be able to follow him on that path may define their performance at the Euro finals.

Author: 
PARIS - NAMPA/REUTERS
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