Real Madrid and France forward Karim Benzema has won the Ballon d’Or as the best footballer in the world for the first time in his career. The 34-year-old Benzema, who is the oldest to receive the award since Stanley Matthews in 1956 and the first French winner since Zinedine Zidane in 1998, scored 44 goals in 46 games. In the women’s award, Barcelona and Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas won the trophy for the second successive year.
“This prize in front of me makes me really proud,” said Benzema, who is also one of the highest paid soccer player. “When I was small, it was a childhood dream, I never gave up. Anything is possible. I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult time for my family as well.” Benzema scored a career-high 27 goals in La Liga and was top scorer in the Champions League with 15—including hat tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.
“Karim is football,” said Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti. Benzema helped Real win the Champions League and La Liga last season. GHe beat ex-Liverpool star and Senegal hero Sadio Mane and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, who became the first Manchester City player to be shortlisted for the final three of the men’s award. Robert Lewandowski, who again collected the Gerd Muller trophy or the best striker, was fourth in the final ranking.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah placed fifth, with Paris Saint-Germain and France forward Kylian Mbappe in sixth place. Erling Haaland broke into the top ten, while five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo ranked 20th, his lowest placing since 2005. Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who won the award for a record seventh time last year, was not nominated after an underwhelming first season in Ligue 1.
Meanwhile, Putellas has become the first woman in history to win back-to-back Ballon d’Ors. “I’m very happy to be back here and pleased because a year ago I was able to win this prize and it pushed me to want to be even better,” said the 28-year-old Putellas, who led Barcelona to a domestic treble in the 2021-22 campaign before suffering from a knee injury ahead of Women’s Euro 2022.
Benzema’s Real Madrid teammate Thibaut Courtois bagged the the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper, while the inaugural Socrates Award for humanitarian efforts went to Mane after helping build hospitals and a school in his homeland Senegal. Barcelona’s Gavi won the Kopa Trophy for the best performing player under 21. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was awarded as the Club of the Year.
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