Karim Benzema wins 2022 Ballon d’Or

Fourteen years after Zinédine Zidane’s win, France once again has a Ballon d’Or winner. Karim Benzema has been handed his just reward for a season which has seen the Real Madrid man perform head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, playing an instrumental role in Champions League and La Liga wins.

The Lyon native shattered his personal goalscoring records, posting up no less than 44 goals across the 2021/22 campaign. After leading Les Bleus to victory in the Nations League last autumn, it was Benzema’s European knockout performances that earned him the headlines. His hat trick in the second leg of his team’s Round of 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain sealed a remarkable comeback, which he followed up with another treble at Stamford Bridge before an extra-time winner in the return game against Chelsea.

A thrilling semi-final first leg saw the Spanish champions fall to defeat against Manchester City, in which the Frenchman notched another two goals, before his stoppage time penalty capped off another improbable turnaround from the Merengue. Overall, his 15-goal haul in the competition has only ever been bested by his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at the Théâtre du Châtelet tonight to witness his former understudy take home the trophy he won five times.

On top of his devastating club form, the 34-year-old unexpectedly returned to the French national team and has become a permanent fixture in Didier Deschamps’ set-up again. Since returning from a six-year absence, the forward has struck six goals, forged an effective relationship with his presumptive future teammate Kylian Mbappé, and looks set to lead the line for his country at a World Cup for only the second time in his career.

Off the pitch, Benzema was sentenced last November to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine for his complicity in the sextape scandal and attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena, the incident which had eventually led to his extended absence from the national team. Looking to put the incident behind him, the striker dropped his appeal over the summer, with his lawyer speaking of a “profound sense of injustice” but also “weariness” with proceedings.

Benzema is the fifth Frenchman to take home football’s most prestigious individual accolade – another Real Madrid icon in Raymond Kopa won in 1958, Michel Platini pulled off a hat-trick from 1983 to 1985, and Marseille legend Jean-Pierre Papin was crowned winner in 1991.


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