Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema has won the 2022 Ballon d’Or making him the first Frenchman to win the prestigious award since Zidane in 1998.
Marking his best season last year, Benzema has been dubbed the best footballer of the year for his 44 goals in 46 games, titled Madrid the Champions League and La Liga crown.
At 34 years old, Benzema became the oldest Ballon d’Or winner in 66 years, etching his name into football history.
“Seeing this award in front of me makes me really proud of the work I have done. It was a childhood dream to have the motivation,” Benzema said after accepting the award.
“I had two role models, Zidane and Ronaldo (the Brazil legend), and always I had this dream in my mind that anything is possible.”
Benzema also thanked his country France for its support and his teammates at Madrid, hailing the award for everyone who supported him over the years.
“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. 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.”
The award show came after Benzema led his team to beat rivals Barcelona at El Clasico 3-1 on Sunday.
Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane was the runner-up in votes, with Manchester City Kevin De Bruyne in third, who followed Robert Lewandowski in fourth.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah was fifth in the rankings, yet neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo was absent from the list, which would be the first time in 16 years.
Messi was not nominated by the panel of international journalists, with Ronaldo finishing in 20th place, his lowest ranking in 17 years.
The two GOATS have dominated the award over the last decade, scooping it 12 times between them.
In the women’s category Barcelona forward Alexia Putellas won the award for the second straight year.
Putellas retained the title as the world’s best women’s player after leading Barcelona to another Spanish title, scoring 18 goals.
“Winning last year pushed me to want to be even better. Without my teammates, this wouldn’t have been possible. I want to thank the coaches and technical staff who help me to improve every day,” Putellas said.