Should Real Madrid Have Backed Higuain Over Benzema?

For four years, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema shared the responsibility of being Real Madrid’s striker between 2009 and 2013. That said, during their crossover period at the Santiago Bernabeu, the offensive limelight at Los Blancos shone brightly on Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined for an at-the-time world-record fee of £80 million. Although Madrid would part ways with Higuain in 2013, they opted to keep the Frenchman. Results have somewhat validated the decision, but, on a personal level, did they keep the right striker? Well, let’s look into the Higuain versus Benzema debate.

Two Different Forwards

In terms of their respective playing styles, both forwards adopted different approaches during the late-2000s and early-2010s. Having broken through at River Plate, the Argentine made a name for himself as a graceful attacker. Benzema, on the other hand, was far more physical in his approach. Regarding their respective La Liga goalscoring records, the numbers make for fascinating reading.

According to Transfermarkt, across his 190 appearances in the Spanish topflight, Higuain scored 107 goals. By comparison, and at the time of writing, Benzema has found the back of the net on 181 occasions in 370 matches. Concerning how that translates to minutes per goals, the Argentine’s record sat at a goal every 112 minutes, while the Frenchman’s is currently every 146 minutes.

That said, what Benzema lacks from a goalscoring standpoint compared to Higuain, he more than makes up for in terms of chance creation. To date, Benzema has 100 La Liga assists to his name, while the now Inter Miami striker managed 45 during his six years at the Santiago Bernabeu. In defence of Higuain, Benzema spent the five years after 2013 assisting Ronaldo, a five-time Balon d’Or winner.

A Debate That Will Live On

Based on the above statistics, few can argue that Higuain wasn’t the more prolific goalscorer. During his best season in the Spanish capital, the Argentine hit 29 goals in 41 appearances in 2009-10. The Frenchman’s peak return, meanwhile, saw him net 31 goals in 54 matches across the 2011-12 campaign.

Furthermore, in regards to durability, Higuain has the edge. According to Planet Football’s report from 2018, in the three seasons before the article, Benzema played less than 60 per cent of all minutes for Los Blancos. During that same period for both Napoli and Juventus, the former River Plate attacker averaged closer to 80 per cent of all available minutes.

Unfortunately for Higuain, it was perhaps a case of right place but at the wrong time during the latter years of his Madrid career. The arrival of Ronaldo saw the Portuguese attacker take over the bulk of Los Blancos’ goalscoring responsibility. As such, Benzema’s creative flair became integral to getting the best out of the former record signing. That said, now Ronaldo has joined Juventus, the Frenchman is embracing his new-found responsibility, and, as of March 2nd, is 16/1 in football betting to be La Liga’s top scorer in 2020-21.

Benzema Suited Madrid’s Ronaldo-Friendly Style

When at Madrid, Higuain frequently showcased his goalscoring talents. Unfortunately, that somewhat proved to be his downfall. Unlike Benzema, the Argentine was and still is, a more natural scorer of goals, but that occasionally hindered his chance-creating figures. Had it not been for Ronaldo, then Higuain could have been Madrid’s leading striker for far longer than he was.

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