Benzema wins Ballon d’Or
Karim Benzema claimed football’s highest individual honor, the Ballon d’Or, for the first time in his career on Monday.
The Real Madrid and France striker, 34, enjoyed a remarkable season in 2021/2022 where he helped his country to the UEFA Nations League title and his club to a 14th Champions League crown plus the La Liga and Spanish Super Cup titles.
A panel of 100 journalists appointed by magazine France Football voted in favor of the number nine ahead of Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Enduring a 14-year wait to get his hands on the trophy since joining Madrid from boyhood club Lyon in 2009, Benzema, with a suit and round glasses inspired by his music idol in the late Tupac Shakur, claimed that “age is just a number” as the oldest Ballon d’Or winner since the first, Stanley Matthews, in 1956.
Benzema is the oldest Ballon d'Or winner in 66 years 🍷 pic.twitter.com/rOjioFHMOo— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 17, 2022
“People play until their later years now and I still have this burning desire. It is this drive that has kept me going and never allowed me to let up,” Benzema said when collecting his prize on the stage at the Theatre du Chatelet.
“It makes me really proud. All the work I did, I never gave up. It was a childhood dream like all kids [have]. I had two motivations in my life – [Zinedine] Zidane and Ronaldo [Nazario]. I've always had this dream in my mind that anything is possible.
“There was a difficult period where I wasn't in the French team, but I never stopped working hard nor gave up. I always kept my head, concentrated on playing football and I'm really proud of my journey here,” Benzema added.
Karim Benzema came through in the Tupac drip 🥶 pic.twitter.com/Dur5a5KAGA— GOAL (@goal) October 17, 2022
“It wasn't easy, it was a difficult time. It was hard for my family as well. To be here today, for the first time for me, I'm happy and pleased with my work and I keep going.”
Becoming the first French winner of the prize since Zidane in 1998 and the fifth in history, Benzema was the clear favorite to lift the Ballon d’Or this year with previous winner Lionel Messi failing to make the 30-man shortlist due to an unflattering debut season at Paris Saint Germain.
Benzema scored 44 goals in 2021/2022, with 27 of these coming in La Liga where he was top scorer, and 15 netted in the Champions League where he was also top of the pile ahead of Robert Lewandowski on 13.
On Madrid’s run to the final in Paris where they beat Liverpool, Benzema scored a 17-minute hat-trick in a comeback win against PSG in the last 16 and then another away at Chelsea in the first leg of the quarterfinal.
In the semifinal against Premier League champions Manchester City, Benzema scored three more goals over two legs.
His exploits in all competitions saw him equal club legend Raul as Madrid’s second-highest goalscorer of all time behind former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, with 322 goals to the Portuguese’s 450.
Ronaldo finished 20th in the Ballon d’Or rankings which was his lowest since 2005.
Underlining the dominance of La Liga, nobody from outside the Spanish top flight has won the prize since Ronaldo did as a Manchester United player in 2008 ahead of switching to Madrid in the same summer as Benzema the following year.
A trio of FC Barcelona players went home with three of the other major honors on offer. Alexia Putellas retained the award for the best women’s player, while breakout midfielder Gavi was handed the Kopa Trophy for the best player under the age of 21.
Summer signing Robert Lewandowski claimed back-to-back Gerd Muller Awards for the world’s best striker, though this was for his 57 goals scored with former club Bayern Munich and Poland last season.
Joining his Bernabeu colleague Benzema in glory, Thibaut Courtois won the Yashin Award for the world’s best goalkeeper, helped by a Man of the Match performance in the Champions League final where he kept Mane and Liverpool at bay in a 1-0 win at the Stade de France.