Real Madrid forward and French striker Karim Benzema has been named the best player in the world after he won the Ballon d’Or award on Monday evening for the first time in his career.
After receiving the award, Benzema reminisced on a difficult period when he was left out of the French national team that went on to win the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018; the former Lyon striker explained that despite the setback, he never gave up.
“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.” Benzema said.
Benzema appreciated the efforts of his teammates in the France national team and with the Los Blancos, with whom he won the La Liga and UEFA Champions League double last season.
The striker scored an impressive 44 goals in 46 matches for Real Madrid as they went on to win the UEFA Champions League and La Liga in the 2021/2023 season.
He is the first Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or since Zinedine Zidane won it in 1998. Since joining Real Madrid in 2009, Benzema has won five UCL and four Spanish League titles. He beat Sadio Mane and Kevin De Bruyne to the award on Monday.
It is the first time in 16 years that neither Ronaldo nor Messi make the Ballon d’Or top three.
In the women’s category, Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas won the Ballon d’Or for the second consecutive time, retaining the title she won last season. Arsenal women’s forward Beth Mead finished second.
The award ceremony for the Ballon d’Or 2022 was held at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.