Neil Humphreys: Kane is the ideal Benzema replacement
Madridistas know Real striker when they see one
The demand started slowly, but it soon turned into a mantra.
Real Madrid supporters took to social media, in real time, to offer variations on the same theme, over and over again.
Benzema out, Kane in. Benzema out, Kane in.
Before Tottenham Hotspur kicked off against Real Madrid yesterday morning (Singapore time), Madridistas were only thinking it.
After the Champions League 1-1 draw, they were saying it, in their thousands.
Harry Kane is now the striker that Karim Benzema used to be - or perhaps never was.
On Twitter, Gary Lineker threw a grumpy cat among Madrid pigeons by hinting, rather mischievously, that Benzema was a tad over-rated.
Benzema's supporters were quick to lift a couple of cliches from the Frenchman's resume. He's averaged almost a goal a game playing for one of the world's most demanding clubs. He runs around a lot for Cristiano Ronaldo. He's delivered for almost a decade.
How can he possibly be over-rated?
And yet, Benzema's huffing and puffing against Spurs reinforced the nagging suspicion that Lineker might have a point, at least.
Benzema squandered a couple of decent chances, as did Kane. But at the final whistle, the Englishman received an arm around the shoulder from teammates.
Kane had endured a rare off-night. It happens, but not very often.
But when Benzema was substituted in the 76th minute, few lamented his departure. In fact, the rousing welcome for his replacement, Spanish favourite Marco Asensio, left no one inside the Bernabeu in any doubt.
Benzema may be on borrowed time. If Ronaldo, who equalised from the spot yesterday morning, had any say in his colleague's future, the Frenchman might have left already.
Every misplaced pass from Benzema, every spurned opportunity or snatched chance, was treated with a contemptuous scowl. Ronaldo made no effort to conceal his frustration at the power imbalance up front.
When Benzema toils in such contests, his consistency can be turned on its head. Has the 29-year-old sustained almost a goal-a-game ratio at Real Madrid because of his muscular ability to lead the line? Or has he managed almost a goal a game because he plays for Real Madrid?
Considering the sterling service from Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and the immaculate Isco, a Real No. 9 should feast on such a penalty-box buffet.
But Benzema has found the net only twice in his last eight appearances.
Kane has scored 15 goals in 15 games.
The Englishman also terrified Raphael Varane, unsettling the jittery centre back as he knocked the ball into his own net.
The 24-year-old did not shrink at the Bernabeu. If anything, he looked at home.
Still, his meteoric rise isn't the primary concern for the Tottenham faithful. It's the perceptible decline of Benzema that may force Zinedine Zidane to eventually make an audacious £150-million (S$268.4m) bid for Kane.
He's already a fan. Before the game, he spoke of his surprise that Kane had morphed into a complete striker. Zidane admires the evolution from promising player to finished article. He covets the kind of footballer who continually finds flaws and fixes them.
Mauricio Pochettino feels the same way. The Tottenham manager takes great pride in detailing Kane's rapid improvement. Together, they iron out any remaining kinks in training.
But there can't be many left, which presents Zidane with a potential gift.
As Real struggled to preserve an unbeaten home record in the Champions League that stretches back to 2009, he saw a problem of his own making at one end and a potential solution at the other.
In Madrid, there is a creeping realisation that the Real coach backed the wrong horse.
Not only did he keep the polarising Benzema, he sold the popular Alvaro Morata to Chelsea. Morata was born in Madrid. He was one of their own.
He also scored more goals in fewer appearances last season, but Zidane opted for the mercurial Frenchman instead.
Real's indifferent form, particularly in La Liga, reinforces the perception that Zidane's slim pickings up front don't do justice to his fabulous midfield.
Kane enjoyed the company of Fernando Llorente, Christian Eriksen, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko. They are established or promising players for the most part, a fine collection of attacking footballers.
But they are not Ronaldo, Isco, Kroos, Modric or Asensio.
Kane isn't quite blessed with the creative resources at Benzema's disposal, but he's scoring three times as many goals at the moment.
Just imagine what he'd do with a Real service.
Ronaldo probably is. He spent most of the match giving Benzema a hard time. After the match, he gave Kane a hug.
It might just be the start of a beautiful relationship.
- APOEL 1 Dortmund 1