Real Madrid’s Kareem Benzema has been awarded the 2022 Ballon d’Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday after a stellar 2021-22 season saw him lead his team to a Champions League and LaLiga double.
Benzema, 34, scored a career-best 27 times in LaLiga and was top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals, including hat tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.
The French player beat a long list of football stars including Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, who came in second and third, respectively. PSG striker Kylian Mbappe came in sixth, while Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo was 20th.
Benzema described Monday’s feat a the manifestation of a childhood dream.
He said: “I’m really proud seeing this prize, it’s been my dream since I was a kid. I grew up with this in my head, and after that I had the motivation,” Benzema said.
“I had two role models in my life: Zizou [Zinedine Zidane] and [Brazil legend] Ronaldo. It’s a lot of work; I never gave up and I kept that dream in my head. Anything is possible.
“It’s been difficult for me. There was a time when I wasn’t playing for the national team, but I didn’t give up. It’s been difficult for me and that just makes me stronger mentally. I’m really happy with my work.”
Ballon d’Or organisers added a humanitarian prize named after the late Brazil midfielder Socrates. The trophy went to Mane for his charity work in Senegal, including building a hospital and donating to schools.