Hot Benzema could break Zidane record
Karim Benzema looks certain to one day leave Olympique Lyon for more glamorous pastures. If Lyon have their way, he could end up being the most expensive player ever.
The 20-year-old France striker has burst into the limelight this season, scoring 26 goals in all competitions including one in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Manchester United last week which Alex Ferguson called a “marvellous strike”.
Sir Alex is not the only manager to have spotted the phenomenon, who is clearly good enough for any club. Real, AC Milan, Chelsea, you name it. A rare combination of power and skill, Benzema can do it all.
His gift for close control and unique game intelligence are reminiscent of another French prodigy of North African descent, Zinedine Zidane. But the young man is a true striker with a taste for blistering runs, who has that nack of being at the right place at the right time.
He is a matchwinner who can make a goal out of nothing, not unlike the player he admires the most, Brazil’s Ronaldo (not now obviously).
All this comes at a price, and that could be more than when Zidane left Juventus for Real Madrid in 2001 for a world record fee of 75 million euros.
Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, who knows what he has in Benzema, is working out a plan. The player is contracted to Lyon until 2012 and Aulas is negotiating a two-year extension with a pay rise that would make Benzema the highest-paid player in Ligue 1. The Lyon boss said he was also considering setting a buyout clause worth 100 million euros.
“If Karim could sign with us until 2045, it would be fantastic,” Aulas said last week.
Benzema himself said he saw his future at Lyon and wanted to stay there until they won the Champions League. That could be quite a long time.
There is little doubt, however, that he will eventually move on and become a Galactico, a Fantastico or something of that kind. There isn’t anybody money can’t buy. In Benzema’s case, however, it will have to be an awful lot of money.
Patrick Vignal, Paris
PHOTO: Benzema in action against Manchester United, Feb. 20 REUTERS/Toby Melville