Karim Benzema with the Ballon d'Or - "In our first meeting, I did not see the obvious": Benzema, a conviction story
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Karim Benzema with the Ballon d’Or – “In our first meeting, I did not see the obvious”: Benzema, a conviction story

It all started with a match in 1997. At the time, the class was called chicks and roughly corresponds to the class of U10s. The OL kids face the Bron kids in the tournament. A kid, no bigger or stronger than the others, scores four goals in the net of mini gems. This is the beginning of the rich history of Karim Benzema, which the big club in his region spotted on that day, 25 years before he was awarded the Ballon d’Or. This story is the story of the beginnings of a player who will become the best player in the world.

At first, it wasn’t easy. The shy, almost silent, frail kid isn’t the one who explodes on screen the most. But by believing in him and, above all, doing everything to get there, he will crush his opponents one by one. This story is the story of Benzema’s discovery somewhere between Ron and Saone.

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Karim Benzema making his Lyon and France debut (Photo: Quentin Guichard)

Credit: Quentin Guichard

However, everything stopped very quickly. The boarding school at the OL Training Center is intended only for children who live more than 30 kilometers away. Benzema’s parents’ apartment is only three miles from Tola-Vologe.

His dad totally wanted to get him out of the neighborhood after the third so I had no other choice, I had to make an exception to the rule and had to convince the director of the center who didn’t want to hear itbrings back Gerard Bono, head of youth recruitment at OL who was instrumental in the KB9 outbreak.. I told Karim : “Okay, we’ll take you but you mustn’t do anything stupid.” From the age of 15 to 18, all young people do stupid things, big or small. Ho, nothing in three years. His father framed him, and above all, Karim knew what he wanted.

At fifteen, when I see him, he’s thick and introverted

Integration into the center is crucial to the success of those who are doing everything they can to achieve their goal: to become a professional. This is the number one secret of Karim Benzema’s success: his stubbornness turns into obsession. “I’ve never seen a boy with such a projectcontinues Bono. He did everything to succeed by depriving himself of many things. There were players with his qualities, but mentally he had no equal at that age. no one.From the age of 15, he lives, breathes, eats and sleeps football. The rooms of Tola-Vologe teens are lined with cars and singers of all kinds, covered with posters of Brazilian Ronaldo.

5 winners and 7 more podiums… The Frenchman and the Ballon d’Or

At that time, its formidable determination was not enough to distinguish it from others. Responsible for the floor above, the U17s national team, Armand Garrido did not immediately fall under the spell of his spell. he says to us:The first time I saw it, I didn’t see the obvious. He was a talented player but he was also on the inside. He has played at the regional level and played for the Under-17 team at the national level. I told myself that what he was suggesting wasn’t enough. He had to give more investment during the matches. At fifteen, when I see him, he’s thick and introverted. We don’t hear it. Watching more than watching. There were no two jobs in one hour.

Ben Arfa and Euro remained on the bench

Weak body, lack of speed: some still doubt OL. But the kid has one consistency: He drops targets like hail. Among the youngsters looking to find a place among the champions of France, Benzema is not the most advanced at all.

Until his professional debut, even on his fifteenth birthday and six seasons before joining Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo, he built himself in the shadow of another phenomenon: Hatem Ben Arfa. “Nobody knew Karim at the timeGarrido confirms. The audience chanted his name, Hatem took the light. At that moment, he was the genius. He does things no one has ever done before. But after a year and a half, the situation has reversed because Karim is completely focused on football.

In Team France, the path is the same. Benzema had to wait for the European Under-17 Championship in 2004 to join Les Bleuets, while Remy Rio, Sandy Bayo, Anthony Meunier or… Hatem Ben Arfa, his friends from OL, already have a few international stripes. It was Rene Gerrard, the coach of the France U-16 national team, who watched him in the Montague Championships, where Benzema took the top scorer list. After giving soap to Lyon teachers who berate them for not talking to him about Benzema, Gerrard passes the tube to Philippe Bergero in preparation for the entire U-17 European Championship.

Today, you are the stars, but I work and I will take your place

We were training in Solak and I needed a striker to take the benchthe under-17 coach told us at the time. Karim arrived very shy. I told him: “We don’t know each other, you will spend the training week and we will see if I take you to the Euros. On the same day, I set up an offensive defense session, and at that time, I had an exceptional central defense with these strongmen.” (Editor’s note: Stephen Thicot and Karim Almrabet). The session began and he tortured them with his movements. The men were angry and upset and tried to catch him but that was impossible. Managing his moves was exceptional, and I’ve never seen a player move that way. I called him at the end of the session to ask if he had brought his passport.

At Euro, the founding moment of the 1987 generation, he played only about twenty minutes but scored to get into play in the first game against Ireland with chest control – a half-ball sequence that says something about his potential. But in front of him, the quartet of Menez, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Songo advance and put him on the bench for the rest of the competition.

He arrived too late on our radars probably because he was born in December, at the end of the yearBergeroo justifies itself today. He wasn’t joking like the others, but when he said something, he always had an idea in his mind. I remember a speech he gave to others: “Today you are the stars, but I am working and I will take your place.” Today, he passed in front of all the men who had exploded before him.

The match in Sochaux and everything accelerates

After the euro, it will not be discussed again. Because as he approached his seventeenth birthday, Benzema changed his morphology, had muscle, strength, and stature, and persuaded skeptics, who were less and less. The last match will be the rocker of his career in Lyon. Trip to Bonal at half past six.

Armand Garrido says:On that day, he revealed himself and planted four in Sochaux Garden. In Lyon, we argue about which contract to offer him. I remember Guy Lacombe, who was Sochaux’s first team coach at the time, looking at the results sheet and wondering aloud on the edge of the sidelines. : “He has no contract?” I lie, I replied that the papers shouldn’t have reached FFF yet. On the return bus, I warn everyone, parents, leaders. I pressed and signed a step-by-step cream but I can tell you I slept poorly. He suddenly exploded and walked quickly, surprising everyone.

It is true that on that day I saw the talent of scoringGuy Lacombe confirms. We weren’t fast enough but there, I was going to do the deal of the century… Too badBenzema continued at Lyon and joined the professional team at the age of 17.

A remarkable achievement as OL has undisputedly dominated the French championship and has one of the most intense and talented teams in Europe. But there again, everyone is talking about the miracle of Clairefontaine, Hatem Ben Arfa. Benzema, the silent, lurks in his shadow. Six months after HBA’s highly publicized debut, KB9 has its chance, too. The day before his first match with the pros, a meal gathered the whole team.

Karim Benzema in his first appearance with Lyon

Credit: Getty Images

He made the staff laugh, we, so much less…

We had a tradition back then, all the young people who joined the group had to give a speechremembers Nicolas Boydebois and then goalkeeper and substitute Gregory Coupet and Remy Vercotrey. And there, while showing insane humility and working silently for months, he says: ‘Thanks for receiving me. Strikers, you better be good because I’m here to take your place. It made the staff laugh, but we’re way less than that.” In the hall, stunned, a good selection of international players including Sydney Jovo, Peggy Loendola or Giovanni Elber, the former goalscorer for Bayern and Brazil.

The next day in Gerland Benzema came back in the 77th minute. Number 33 on his back, no flow, he’s already on a mission. And very quickly, he receives a medium ball that he tackles from the side lines. After a hit from the sombrero on his defender, he provided a assist to Brian Bergogno. Nothing will stop him now. “Had he been five years older than him, because we really lacked the top scorer at the time, we might have won the Champions League.‘, sorry for Puydebois. OL is still chasing C1, Benzema won by five. But that’s another story…

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