Real Madrid – La Liga Another Champions League campaign begins
Karim Benzema is one of the Champions League’s talismans, not just for his impressive scoring record – only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Raul and Robert Lewandowski have more goals – but because of his longevity in the competition.
When the Frenchman hears the Champions League anthem during Real Madrid‘s match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, it will signal his 17th season in the competition.
Benzema‘s first appearance in Europe’s elite club competition came as a Lyon player in the last 16 of the 2004/05 edition as Lyon progressed against Werder Bremen.
For context, Sergio Ramos has only played in the Champions League for 15 seasons, having made his debut in the competition for Real Madrid in 2005/06.
Only Iker Casillas (20) and Lionel Messi (17) have featured in more Champions League competitions than Benzema‘s 16 so far.
The striker’s first experience of a Champions League night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu came as a Lyon player, although he didn’t make it on to the pitch on that occasion. One month later, he scored his first goal in the competition against Rosenborg at the Stade Gerland.
Going back to that first trip to the Bernabeu, Benzema may not have come away with any minutes on the pitch, but he did get a signed shirt off his idol Ronaldo Nazario. The Brazilian didn’t play in the game after being left out by Vanderlei Luxemburgo.
It was from that moment that Benzema knew he would play for the home side at that stadium one day. Now, at the age of 32, he’s one of the highest goalscorers in Champions League history and a Real Madrid icon.
Lewandowski may have overtaken him into fourth in the all-time scoring charts last season and taken home the Champions League trophy, but Benzema can take consolation in his four winner’s medals from the competition.
Alongside Raphael Varane on four, Benzema has won more Champions League trophies than any other French player and, on top of that, he’s the top scoring Frenchman in the competition ahead of Thierry Henry.