It was a fast and sudden move. On Sunday morning, Real Madrid made the announcement that Karim Benzema, the current Ballon d’Or winner, was leaving Los Blancos after a decade at the club. He went out with a bang, scoring from the penalty spot in his last game against Athletic Club and receiving an emotional ovation from the Santiago Bernabeu crowd as he walked off the pitch after being substituted.

Benzema’s departure marks yet another significant change in an era-defining team for Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo left in 2018; Sergio Ramos in 2021; and Casemiro and Marcelo in 2022. This time it feels like something even bigger has ended though – arguably one of the greatest players to have ever featured for Real Madrid has left them behind.

The French international joined Los Blancos aged 21 back in 2009 and quickly established himself as a vital member of their squad. He lifted three La Liga titles with them, two Copa del Rey trophies, four Champions League victories – including two consecutive ones – as well as countless individual awards such as Ligue 1 Player of the Year and French Player of the Year during his spell at Madrid.

Benzema was also one of Zinedine Zidane’s trusted lieutenants during what will be remembered by many as Real’s most successful spell since their ‘Galacticos’ era. His excellent positional play allowed both Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to shine up front while his goal scoring abilities meant he often stepped up to take matters into his own hands when needed – something which wasn’t lost on those who watched him closely over these years at Madrid.

Despite all this success, Benzema never really won over all sections of the supporters due to his lack of involvement towards the Spanish national team or any other incident throughout his career that was seen to be controversial by some fans (including some incidents related to Karim’s upbringing). But what can’t be denied is that he played a key role in cementing what will be remembered fondly by many as one of La Liga’s most successful clubs over recent years – wearing his trademark white Real Madrid jersey with pride every single time he donned it for Los Merengues across all competitions since 2009 until now.