June 29, 2020
The Frenchman’s assist has put Real Madrid on course for the title, but it wasn’t even the most dazzling piece of skill on an extraordinary weekend in Spain
Karim Benzema backheel sums up La Liga weekend of beauty and brilliance | Sid Lowe
Sometimes there’s so much brilliance you don’t even know where to begin, let alone which words to use. Stendhal Syndrome, they call it, which is a disappointingly functional phrase to define those moments when you feel overwhelmed by beauty, and Karim Benzema expressed it better. On the pitch most of all, but off it too. Not when he said pfff – because what else was he supposed to say – but when he smiled, shrugged a little and said: “that’s Football.” The afternoon before, Fyodor Smolov had said it too without uttering a word. Instead, he took the ball in his arms and kissed it.
“Thanks, old girl,” Alfredo Di Stéfano used to say, addressing the ball that had given him everything. Sometimes it’s enough to be grateful for the game and this was one of those times, if only fans could have been there to see it themselves. The kind of weekend Iago Aspas scores a goal so good he tears off his shirt in an empty stadium, sliding to his knees before a solitary man in a mask; the kind that closes after midnight with Benzema trying to explain how he had dreamed up the backheeled, nutmegged assist – yes, it was a backheel, a nutmeg and an assist – that took Real Madrid clear and brought the title close now.
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