A lot has been said and written about how the holy month of Ramadan takes a toll on footballers across all levels. It totally disrupts the dietary plan of an athlete, and there has been ample research tracing the effect of fasting on speed, endurance, and agility. But for some, some things are as important as the work they do. Karim Benzema was fasting the whole day, from dawn to dusk, before slamming a stunning hat-trick against Chelsea in the first leg.

Maybe the aforementioned research didn’t take into account the intangibles that rule the sporting arena. At 34, Benzema is more determined, more resolute, than he ever has been at any point. The threatening aura he has ruthlessly carved for himself demands immediate attention from the opponents.

It’s not that he has a mystical presence on the field; the work he does is quite simple and well known to opponents. He is not exactly the preening machismo, but he’s someone who goes on about his work with minimal fuss.

In his own words, Benzema is “a number nine who has the soul of a number ten.” He drops deep, attracts defenders, creates space, links up with a winger lurking on either side, makes threatening runs into dangerous areas, and finds the net with surgical precision. He has been doing that for the whole season. His 38 goals for Real Madrid have bailed out Carlo Ancelotti on numerous occasions from the tactical muddle he often creates, especially in the Champions League.

Across both legs against PSG and Chelsea, Real Madrid was not necessarily the better team. Physically and Tactically, they were outsmarted by their opponents. Yet they walked out with a favourable result, and much of it owes to their talisman Benzema.

With every game that he plays, Benzema is strengthening his credentials for Ballon d’ Or. He currently leads the goal-scoring charts for both La Liga and UEFA Champions League. Further, his back-to-back hat-tricks in the knock-out stage of Europe’s elite competition clearly stand out, while his closest competitor Robert Lewandowski bowed out of the tournament after Bayern were restricted to a 1-1 draw by Villareal.

However, he does need a little support from his teammates. On a theoretical level, Ballon d’ Or is an individual award given to the best performer of every season. But the individual is not a separate entity, and how his team fares across competitions also play an important role. While the domestic championship is almost confirmed for Real Madrid, winning the Champions League will further consolidate Benzema’s chance of winning the coveted award.

Former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, while talking to Alessandro Del Piero for Sky Sports Italia, recently stated that Benzema deserves to win Ballon d’Or.

Benzemadeserves the Ballon d’Or, I’ve been saying it got years and getting criticised,” Ronaldo told Alessandro Del Piero. “But he deserves it, he’s a great forward.”