Karim Benzema would be forgiven for lamenting the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, but the striker admits he is happy to be be playing his "real football" as he takes charge of leading the club's attack.
Benzema enjoyed 10 fruitful years alongside one of football's all-time greats, forming an unspoken link with the Portuguese attacker that would help propel the Spanish capital club to two La Liga crowns and four Champions League titles.
Madrid have stuttered somewhat since Ronaldo's summer move to Juventus, but Benzema says he is delighted to be given more of a leadership role at the head of Madrid's attack, having previously played provider to CR7.
“Before there was a guy who scored more than 50 goals per season and my role was to provide assists,” the striker told France Football.
“I played to help Cristiano, we formed a good partnership. I was always looking for him with the intention of helping him to score even more goals.
“Now though, I'm the leader of the attack. It's up to me to make the difference. I'm very happy because now I can play my real football.”
Despite enjoying one of his most prolific seasons in front of goal since bidding farewell to Ronaldo, the 31-year-old feels that football is becoming too much about numbers rather than the bigger picture.
“For me, being an attacker is not just about scoring goals,” he said. “Football is becoming a compilation of statistics and that's all we look at.
“There are attackers who open up spaces for their team to play into, who offer opportunities to their team-mates, who tire out opponents...
“Football must be looked at as a whole.”
Part of the responsibilities of being a senior member of the club includes being a role model for younger players, something Benzema - who has found the net on 20 occasions in all competitions this term - feels is massively important to the development of his fledgling team-mates.
“It's very important [to be a role model].” he went on. “Youngsters remind me of when I started at Lyon – like Vinicius, for example.
“He's only 18 years old so sometimes I ask him things and then I say 'wait... he's 18, go slow, remember how you were at that age'.
“But I speak to him like that because I know he can do it. He's very strong.”
Benzema will be hoping to find the target with regularity over the coming days as Madrid twice host Clasico rivals Barcelona, first in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday before a league meeting on Saturday.
By Stephen Crawford
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