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Real Madrid’s five best number 9’s of the modern era

Karim Benzema continues to quietly write his name further into the history books at Real Madrid, one of the club’s greatest modern servants recently bringing up his 250th goal for the Spanish giants.

The Frenchman has led the line at the Bernabeu for more than a decade and has won three league titles and four Champions League trophies amongst his major honours, starring on that latter stage with only four players in history having ever scored more goals in the competition.

 

Benzema is now the fifth-highest scoring player in Real Madrid’s history and follows a long list of illustrious star names to have worn the number nine for the club.

We’ve decided to look back at some of the club’s greatest centre-forwards of the modern era, here are five of the best players to wear Los Blancos’ number nine shirt.

Ivan Zamorano

Zamorano was once so desperate to wear the number nine shirt that he memorably placed a creative + symbol between the two numbers on his 18 at Inter Milan, having been designated the higher number following a reshuffling of shirts involving the great Roberto Baggio and Ronaldo.

Before that stint with the Nerazurri, however, the Chilean was a talismanic figure during a four-year spell at Real Madrid, racking up over a century of goals and firing the club to the Spanish title in 1995.

That season saw Zamorano finish as the leading scorer in La Liga to win the Pichichi award, scoring 37 goals in all competitions during a brilliant individual campaign.

The South American was sensational in the air and formed a fine understanding with Michael Laudrup at the Bernabeu, Zamorano regarded as one of the world’s best centre-forwards at his prolific peak in the Spanish capital.

The highlight of his time with Los Blancos came after scoring a hat-trick and setting up a further two goals in a 5-0 thrashing of arch-rivals Barcelona, a statement result as Real emphatically ended the Catalan’s dominance of Spanish football.

He left the club for Inter following the emergence of Raul with a record of 101 goals in 173 appearances, ‘Bam Bam’ earning cult hero status once more at the San Siro.

Fernando Morientes

Fernando Morientes’ performances at Real Zaragoza saw Real Madrid move to sign the youngster from their divisional rivals, with the forward making a fine impression during an eight-year spell at the Bernabeu.

His debut season saw him finish as the club’s leading scorer in all competitions as the Spanish side ended a 32-year wait to be crowned as European champions, before remaining a key part of the squad as Real won a further two Champions League titles over the next four seasons, scoring in their 2000 final victory over Valencia.

The Spaniard was an instinctive finisher and possessed a formidable aerial threat, memorably scoring four headed goals as part of a five-goal haul in a thrashing of Las Palmas in 2002.

The arrival of Real Madrid’s Galactico era under president Florentino Perez pushed the forward down the pecking order and he moved to Monaco on a season-long loan deal, famously starring and scoring in both legs as the French side eliminated his parent club in the Champions League quarter-finals.

He left on a permanent basis for Liverpool in 2005 and endured an underwhelming spell on Merseyside, the best period of his career undoubtedly coming in the all-white colours of Real as he won five major honours and scored 100 goals in 272 appearances.

Ronaldo

Real Madrid may never quite have seen the prime version of Ronaldo, but the 2.0 version who arrived at the Bernabeu during the summer of 2002 was most certainly still a player to be both respected and feared.

Career-threatening injuries had robbed the Brazilian of some of the explosiveness which had made him arguably the most exhilarating talent the game has ever seen in his younger years, the star having evolved his game to focus simply on scoring goals with ruthless efficiency.

Ronaldo had fired Brazil to World Cup success during the summer before becoming Real’s latest superstar signing, winning a second career Ballon d’Or later that year during a scintillating debut season.

He scored 30 goals in all competitions during that campaign, including a stunning hat-trick against Manchester United in the Champions League – an individual performance which saw the player given a standing ovation by the Old Trafford crowd.

Injury problems stalled his progress during his latter years in the Spanish capital but he departed having won two league titles and scored a hugely impressive 104 goals in 177 appearances in all competitions, Ronaldo an undisputed superstar of his – or any – era.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Rewind to the summer of 2009 and Real Madrid dived head first into a second Galactico era, spending unprecedented sums in a window that brought Karim Benzema, Kaka and Xabi Alonso to the Bernabeu.

The marquee arrival, however, was the world-record capture of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner and a player who had long dreamed of representing Los Blancos.

It was the perfect move for both club and player, the one issue for Ronaldo the presence of club captain and all-time record goalscorer Raul in his favoured number seven shirt.

The Portuguese wore the number nine for his debut season in the Spanish capital and whilst it still looks odd on reflection, it earns the Portuguese superstar a place in this feature.

He scored 33 goals in just 35 appearances during a sole season in the illustrious shirt, before swapping to seven following the departure of Raul to Schalke and setting unprecedented goalscoring standards.

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A further eight seasons in the club’s colours saw Ronaldo become their greatest ever goalscorer with a seemingly implausible 450 goals in just 438 appearances in all competitions, winning the Ballon d’Or and the Champions League on four occasions each.

Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus two years ago, his case for being the club’s most iconic figure of all-time compelling given his staggering achievements.

Karim Benzema

The current incumbent of the number nine shirt, Benzema’s career at Real Madrid has been one of highs, lows and an abundance of success.

He was originally handed the number 11 shirt upon his arrival from Lyon before swapping to nine after the aforementioned Cristiano Ronaldo moved to seven, a shirt he has carried with distinction for much of the past decade.

The French forward has been a popular figure with both teammates and managers alike during his time in the Spanish capital, his selfless style seeing him drop deep to link the play and helping to bring the best out of those around him.

Benzema may be a number nine and a hugely successful one having scored 253 goals in 522 appearances for Real Madrid, though he is much more than a goalscoring threat with no player having ever recorded more assists for the club.

Three league titles and four Champions League trophies head a vast collection of honours for a player who somehow remains under-appreciated outside of the Bernabeu despite his exploits, Benzema belonging comfortably amongst the finest forwards of the past decade.

 

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