Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema wins 2022 Ballon d’Or

The 34-year-old went into this evening’s star-studded ceremony as firm favourite to scoop the biggest individual prize in football for the first time in his career following a stunning 2021-22 campaign.

Benzema scored 44 goals and assisted 15 more in just 46 games across all competitions, including 15 goals and two assists in 12 Champions League outings and 27 goals and 12 assists in 32 La Liga games.

The Frenchman’s contributions helped Real Madrid to lift both trophies, and he has now won the Ballon d’Or for the first time.

Benzema succeeds seven-time winner Lionel Messi as the Ballon d’Or winner, becoming only the second player other than Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to take the award since 2007.

The striker becomes the fifth different French player to win the prestigious trophy, following in the footsteps of Raymond Kopa, Jean-Pierre Papin, Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini, the latter of whom won it three times.

At 34, Benzema is also the oldest Ballon d’Or winner since Sir Stanley Matthews scooped the inaugural award in 1956.

“Seeing this award in front of me makes me really proud of the work I have done. It was childhood dream, to have the motivation‚Ķ I had two role models [Zinedine] Zidane and Ronaldo and always I had this dream in my mind that anything is possible,” Benzema said upon receiving the award.

“There was a difficult period where I wasn’t in the French team but I never stopped working hard or gave up.

“Really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy it was difficult. To be here today for the first time, I am happy, pleased for my work and want to keep going.

“I want to thank all my teammates at Real Madrid and France and my coach and the Real Madrid president who is here this evening and also the support of Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon president).

“There are a lot of people to thank. It is an individual prize but still a collective one because of everyone who played a role in it.

“Age is just a number for me. 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. It kept this dream alive and was the fire behind me. I just want to make the most if it.

Benzema beat off competition from the likes of Sadio Mane and Kevin De Bruyne, who made up the top three, with Robert Lewandowski and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah finishing in fourth and fifth respectively.

Lewandowski won the Gerd Muller award for best striker for the second year in succession having scored more than anyone else during the 2021-22 season, with Benzema’s Real Madrid teammate Thibaut Courtois taking the Yashin award for Best Goalkeeper.

Manchester City were awarded the Club of the Year prize for having the joint-most nominees alongside Liverpool, who took second ahead of Real Madrid.

Barcelona’s Gavi won the Kopa award for the best young player, while Mane, who finished as runner-up for the main award, took home the inaugural Socrates award for his humanitarian efforts.

The women’s award went to Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas, who claimed it for the second year in succession.

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