French striker Karim Benzema wins coveted Ballon d'Or for the first time

Sports Tuesday 18/October/2022 07:48 AM
By: Times News Service
French striker Karim Benzema wins coveted Ballon d'Or for the first time
Photo - : French striker Karim Benzema

Muscat: French striker Karim Benzema won the coveted Ballon d'Or award on Monday night.

The Frenchman became only the second player aside from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award since 2008. Benzema's Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric won the prize in 2018.

Benzema was presented his first Ballon d'Or at a lavish ceremony at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France.

The Real Madrid striker beat the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski in the voting to claim the most prestigious individual award in men's football after a sensational 2021-22 season. He helped steer Real to the La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League.

Sadio Mane, who moved from Liverpool to Bayern Munich last summer, came second while Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne finished in third.

Robert Lewandowski, who was widely tipped to be one of the frontrunners for the prize, came fourth in the vote.

"There was a difficult period where I wasn't in the French team but I never stopped working hard or gave up," Benzema said on stage during the award ceremony flanked by his mother and son.

"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 team-mates 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."

Aged 34, Benzema is the oldest Ballon d'Or winner since Stanley Matthews in 1956. However, the France international says he has a "burning desire" to keep playing.

He said: "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."

This year's Ballon d'Or was awarded for performance in the 2021-22 season, rather than the calendar year. Last season, Benzema was in scintillating form.

The Real Madrid striker scored 44 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions in a season where Carlo Ancelotti's side won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.

His performances in the Champions League drew huge acclaim. He scored hat-tricks in the last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain and in the quarter-final first leg against Chelsea.

He scored again in the decisive second leg against the London club before striking again in both the semi-final first and second legs against Manchester City. He then scored in Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris.

The closest Benzema came to winning the Ballon d'Or before 2022 was last year when he finished fourth in the voting. He received 239 points which was 374 behind winner Messi.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo finished in 20th this year.

There were a number of other awards dished out on the night, with Barcelona star Alexia Putellas becoming the first female player to win the Ballon d'Or back-to-back times after clinching the 2022 award.

Fellow Barcelona player Gavi was awarded the Kopa Trophy - given to the best under 21 player - at the annual ceremony in Paris as he was handed the award by team-mate and last year's winner, Pedri.

Benzema's club team-mate Thibaut Courtois won the Yashin Trophy following his heroics in goal for Los Blancos last year.

Bayern Munich duo Sadio Mane and Robert Lewandowski did not leave empty handed; with the former clinching the Socrates award - given for humanitarian work - and the latter winning the Gerd Muller award, given to the best striker of the year.

And the winner of the Club of the Year award went to Manchester City.