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Karim Benzema Crowned Ballon d’Or Winner 🏆

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Karim Benzema Crowned Ballon d’Or Winner

In football, the terms “wonderkid” & “late bloomer” are used to describe excellent players with two distinct career paths. By definition, a wonderkid is a young person whose excellence in his or her discipline is appropriate to someone older while a late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. Perfect examples of this are Wayne Rooney & Jamie Vardy. Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old by scoring that memorable Premier League goal against Arsenal before going on to score 4 goals for England in the 2004 Euros and then moving to Manchester United for £30m – a world record for a teenager at the time. In contrast, Jamie Vardy was released from Sheffield Wednesday as a 16-year-old and earned a measly £30 a week as he worked his way up from the lower leagues. Eventually, he would lead Leicester City to the most memorable Premier League triumph in the competition’s history in 2016 while winning the Golden Boot in 2020. 
Benzema, Putellas win Ballon d'Or awards for best players in the world | Reuters

You wouldn’t be thought of as silly if you called the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, Karim Benzema a wonderkid and a late bloomer. His career has taken a rather usual path from the teenager who rose to fame in the late 2000s & won 4 consecutive Ligue 1 titles with Lyon to being in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadows while being exiled from the French National team to finally winning football’s most prestigious individual award at the age of 34. For a player who seemed to have the world at his feet at the age of 19, he did take a long route to the top of the mountain while never leaving the limelight.  

 

Benzema’s amazing 2022 campaign 

Karim Benzema had a wonderful 2021/2022 season as the newly named captain – following Sergio Ramos’ departure to PSG – as he led Real Madrid to triumphs in both the Champions League & La Liga while also winning the Golden Boot awards in both tournaments. Additionally, he won the Supercopa de España scoring in both the semis and final against Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, respectively.  

The highlights of his season, however, were his stunning UEFA Champions League hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea in successive games and the 3 goals he scored over 2 legs to knock out Pep Guardiola and his billion-pound Manchester City squad in the semi-final.  

Breakdown Of Karim Benzema’s Goals & Assists in 2020/2021 

Competition  Appearances   Goals   Assists 
La Liga  32  27  12 
UEFA Champions League  12  15  2 
Supercopa de España  2  2  1 
France (Euros, Nations League, WCQ & Friendlies)  13  9  2 
Total  59  53  17 

 

While Benzema’s talents have always been evident, there were doubts going into last season despite being named in each La Liga Team of the Season since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. He had helped Real Madrid win 4 Champions League titles among other trophies but had played a reduced role in that run. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kroos & Luka Modric were always thought of as more important figures in that run and perhaps, rightly so.  

The Madrid #9 had spent so much time in the shadows of these fellow greats that some doubted he would be able to carry the team on his back especially after neighbours Atletico Madrid won the league title in 2020/2021. The signings of Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland were explored at several points but, after unsuccessful tries, the Real Madrid hierarchy decided to fully commit to having Karim Benzema as the focal point of their attack. Having led the team to its record-extending 14th Champions League and 35th La Liga titles, it’s fair to say he more than repaid the faith in him.  

Benzema wins Ballon d'Or 2022; here's full list of winners for all awards | Football News - Hindustan Times

Return to the French National Team 

In a way, you could say Benzema’s return to the French National team last year set the tone for his Ballon d’Or season. He was involved in a highly publicised blackmail case involving French teammate, Mathieu Valbuena back in 2015 and had been left out of the National team since 2016 following the drama that ensued.  

He had to watch from home as first, France got to the finals of the 2016 Euros on home soil and then, 2 years later, won the World Cup in Russia. With the case finally closed in 2021 as he was found not guilty, he returned to the French National team ahead of the delayed Euros. While his return to Les Blues wasn’t as glorious as he would have wanted with France suffering a Round of 16 exit to Switzerland, his 4 goals in 4 games capped a brilliant individual outing for him. He would later help France secure the UEFA Nations League title a few months later scoring in the semis and final against Belgium & Spain, respectively.  

 

Karim Benzema Titles in 2021/2022 Season 

Individual Awards  Team Awards 
UEFA Men’s Player of the Year  La Liga 
UEFA Champions League Player of the Season  UEFA Champions League 
UEFA Champions League top goalscorer  Supercopa de España 
UEFA Champions League Team of the Season  UEFA Nations League 
La Liga Player of the Season   
Pichichi Trophy   
La Liga Team of the Season   
Real Madrid Player of the Season   
Supercopa de España top goalscorer   

 

A legacy enhanced 

There’ve been lots of debates about who the greatest striker of the last 15-years is and Karim Benzema’s crowning as the Ballon d’Or winner undoubtedly gives him the edge in these discussions.  

Luis Suarez and Robert Lewandowski are names that pop up alongside Benzema’s during these debates. Luis Suarez helped lead Barcelona to a treble in his debut season for the Catalans back in 2014/15 while also winning the Pichichi award (2015/16) in an era when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were at the heights of their powers.  

Robert Lewandowski also won a treble of his own while also dominating the Bundesliga with Bayern. He was on pace to win the Ballon d’Or in 2020 before it was announced that the award had been cancelled for the year due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the football calendar. While it’s hard to say if this award by the Frenchman clearly puts his career over that of his peers, it cements him as one of the greats of this era.  

Karim Benzema: Real Madrid striker wins men's Ballon d'Or for first time | Football News | Sky Sports

Future Ballon d’Or chances 

With the ever-growing talents of the French national team – which makes them one of the favourites to win the World Cup in December – as well Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the Champions League & La Liga that has seen them favourites to retain both titles, there exists a world where a triumph in 2 or 3 of these tournaments could see Karim Benzema retain the Ballon d’Or next year. After witnessing the extraordinary run the Frenchman has been on over the past 18 months, it would be very brave to bet against him to be the first player – besides Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo – to retain the Ballon d’Or since Netherlands’ Marco van Basten did in 1989.  

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