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Vinicius-Benzema, the hyperactive young man and the tutor

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Vinicius and Benzema celebrate one of the goals against Valencia a week ago at the Bernabéu.SUSANA VERA (REUTERS)

For a decade, Karim Benzema did not feel the need to explain himself , to tell his football to the outside world. The shy boy from Lyon took refuge for years in Madrid under a physical armor less carved than the current one and hoped that others would understand without further ado what he was doing on the field, his assistant game for Cristiano Ronaldo. The incomprehension of the masses was, at times, high, accused of being fainthearted before the goal, but practically nothing took the Frenchman out of his low profile. It was hard to know what he thought about things.

However, as soon as the Portuguese striker left him alone with the White's attack, two things changed in Benzema: he showed that he could be a remarkable scorer and he began to exhibit, at the same time as his goals, a speech of his own. A voice that has multiplied in recent times, especially with his new partnership with Vinicius. After three years living back to back, the Frenchman does not miss the opportunity to present himself as a tutor to his new friend and to the youngest of the staff, a counselor, a kind of older brother. “I'm going to help him in everything I can, I believe in him,” the 34-year-old Frenchman has insisted this season on the 21-year-old Brazilian. As if he also had to underline his faith in his partner and student. Camavinga also thanked the shelter that his compatriot gave him when he arrived in Spain, with whom, at least initially, he shared a table and language in the dining room.

Carlo Ancelotti, witness to the silent first Benzema (he had it between 2013 and 2015) and the current one, considers that today's version is related more to the rest than to himself. “He has not changed compared to the others, he maintains humility; it has changed how others see him. A stronger player, with more personality, more mature, more leader. The others see it differently, just like me compared to six years ago”, the Italian pointed out this Saturday in the run-up to the final of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic (7:30 p.m., Movistar), in which he will not have Carvajal due to covid, and Alaba and Asensio were doubtful due to physical discomfort.

The new football channel opened between Benzema and Vinicius is the great leap for the white team. In the three previous campaigns, the Frenchman had not assisted the Brazilian and in this five of his nine goal passes have been for the winger. Between the two they add more goals (38) than all of Barcelona together (37). A meeting point of two scoring trajectories with some parallelism, since one and the other -plus the South American- were uncovered in front of the opposite goal suddenly and almost without prior notice.

Only behind Lewandowski

The awakening of Vinicius was initially taken with caution in Valdebebas. “A seagull does not make a summer”, they warned in August, pulling costumbrismo, sources with access to the locker room. They were happy about the “good clues”, but prudence prevailed at first. Also from doors to the outside. “Inside the area it's more complicated for him because he doesn't have this kind of quality”, pointed out Carletto after his saving double at the Ciutat de València (3-3). Three months later, the Reggiolo coach has already admitted that this streak of achievement from the Brazilian was not expected. “I was surprised by his quality in scoring goals”, he conceded the night in which a flash of his defeated Sevilla (2-1).

His 15 goals (six the previous campaign) are the consequence of even greater hyperactivity, which was not scarce, and much more effective. He attempts twice as many dribbles (6.8 per game vs. 3.1 last season) with an almost identical level of success (43%); He also shoots twice as many times per match (2.6-1.2); and doubles his success against the goal (from 10 to 21%). Because where before he was joke meat, now he even surpasses Benzema: half of his shots end up between the three sticks while in 2020/21 he only managed it in a third of his shots. The French remains at 44% in this section.

The end has entered self-combustion and the nine white, far from shrinking, has also grown driven by improvement from the student. His success against the rival frame has improved more than four points (from 18.6% to 23.2% of this) and until this weekend only Robert Lewandowski had participated in more goals (34-32).

In an ecosystem as complex as a locker room of this level, dominated by egos and the sense of profitability, now the Vinicius's left is the good shadow to get close to, especially for some emerging players who are looking for a greater share of prominence. However, the winger's rise and his recent communion with Benzema still have ground to explore, according to Ancelotti. “We are pushing Vinicius to play more inside so he can help Benzema. Against Valencia, he scored like this. Not only does he have to enjoy dribbling outside, but also going inside without the ball”, commented the Italian this Saturday. He confessed in his day that he does not give him many indications beyond the search for effectiveness, but this is a new task so that he continues to understand himself with his tutor.

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