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Real Madrid’s plans for the transfer window before the start of next season are far from a secret. Their only goal will be to ensure that they do what many expect and lure Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after his contract expires.
If anyone was in doubt about their ambitions, Karim Benzema confirmed them this week.
“Kylian Mbappe could be the third star with Vinicius and me? Yes, I say that many times,” Benzema told L’Equipe about his French team-mate.
“With Mbappe, we get well out of it because we know what the other is going to do on the pitch. It’s perfect.”
But on Wednesday’s evidence, the Los Blancos may not even need to add Mbappe to their ranks to win the Champions League.
In fact, the argument for Madrid as a team ready to recapture what they see as their rightful place in European football is increasingly convincing after Carlo Ancelotti’s men took a commanding 3-1 lead in their quarter-final match with proprietors Chelsea.
50 – @Benzema has been involved in 50+ goals (37 goals, 13 assists) in all tournaments a single season for the first time in his club career. On @realmadridenonly @Cristiano (eight times) did so in the 21st century.
– OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 6, 2022
It was Benzema’s ruthlessness that put the Blues to the sword at Stamford Bridge, Madrid, who clinically exploited the passivity of opponents whose efforts to go seven games unbeaten in normal time in all tournaments in the middle of a club crisis quickly seem to be catching up. them.
Madrid followed Brentford, 4-1 winners on the same pitch last Saturday, by cutting through a Blues defense that had only conceded two goals into their last five games before being stung by the bees.
Chelsea could find solace in suffering from the hands or, in this case, the head on Benzema in the first half. His pair of capable headers, which put Madrid ahead 2-0 within 24 minutes, were of the highest quality, from Vinicius Junior and Luka Modric’s posts that in themselves were worth admiring.
And when Kai Havertz halved the deficit and made this match the first knockout match in the Champions League, scoring three headers in the first half since Bayern Munich against Porto in the 2014-15 quarter-final, Thomas Tuchel’s men could afford hope.
Chelsea’s confidence may have been further strengthened as Benzema twisted a gilded chance for a hat-trick late in the opening period, but shortly after the restart he got his treble thanks to a huge unintentional assist.
Edouard Mendy did attempt a finish, but from an awkward position, sending the ball into the away fans. A grateful Benzema intervened and rolled a simple finish into an empty net.
3 – Karim Benzema has become the first player ever to score a European hat-trick against Chelsea, with the Frenchman scoring his three goals after just 46 minutes of the match. geni. pic.twitter.com/L57UMw8xwl
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 6, 2022
It marked another consecutive Champions League hat-trick from Benzema, following his remarkable second-half barrage against Paris Saint-Germain, which knocked Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi out in the last 16.
He became the fourth player to score a hat-trick in back-to-back Champions League appearances after Cristiano Ronaldo (2017), Messi (2016) and Luiz Adriano (2014).
This latest productive display, which brought Benzema to 37 goals and 50 goals involved for the season, was partly a product of his enduring brilliance and partly a mess of Chelsea’s own production.
But that means he is now in the process of scoring at least two goals in each of his last four goals for Madrid. The only other player to have scored a ball in four consecutive appearances in the ‘big five’ European leagues this season? Yes, Kylian Mbappe.
There is no striker at this level in a richer form than Benzema, and if he were to continue his incredible run, the mission for Mbappe, if he makes the expected move to Madrid, might not be to re-establish their European superiority, but to maintain it.