Thursday, June 23, 2011

INFTH Top 100: Numbers 60 and 59

60. Alessandro Matri- Playing as a striker at Caligiari, Matri was always one of those players who was just too good for the club he was at. Scoring eleven goals in nineteen appearances for a team residing in a mid table position is very impressive indeed, so impressive in fact that the interest of Juventus was piqued.

Brought in to help replace injured striker Fabio Quagliarella, Matri was an instant hit in Turin, scoring goals aplenty for the Old Lady; the first two of which were scored against, you guessed it, Calgiari.

Finishing the season with twenty Serie A goals, Juventus were understandably keen to turn what was initially a loan deal into a permanent transfer, a piece of business which was certified on June 22nd, when Matri officially joined Juventus for about fifteen million euros.

Matri's form in the second half of the season for Juventus didn't go unnoticed by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, Matri played twice for the National Team  in 2011, and scored his first goal in a friendly match against Ukraine. Now set to play for a rebuilding Juventus team next season, Matri will anticipate further chances with the Italian national side in the future, ones that, on the evidence of his Serie A form, will be taken with aplomb.

59. Karim Benzema- Much criticized after a disappointing first year in Madrid, Benzema really came into his own for both club and country in 2011. Having been left out of Raymond Domenech's squad for the 2010 World Cup, Benzema was spared the ignominy of being part of that French debacle, perhaps something which helped his rise over the course of 2010/11.

At the beginning of the year, Benzema's chances were limited at Madrid, but a serious injury to Gonzalo Higuain opened the door for more regular first team opportunities, ones which the Frenchman used very effectively.

Twenty-nine goals in all competitions (internationally and for Madrid) speaks for itself, Benzema was both a threat on home soil in La Liga, as well as on the European platform. Despite the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor in January, Benzema retained his first team spot throughout the season, mainly courtesy of a terrific of mid season run of performances.

For the National Team, 2010/11 was finally the season that Benzema became the player that he had been expected to become on the national level. Benzema's goal scoring helped France in their quest to reach the 2012 European Championships, and the Frenchman also managed to net in a couple of high profile friendly games.

Next season, Benzema is likely to find his first team place under threat from the returning Gonzalo Higuain, as well as whoever else is snapped up by Madrid this summer. However, the Frenchman has proved over the last twelve months that he is capable of being a star in a top European team, so writing off his chances in 2012 would be very foolish indeed.

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