Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has won the men’s Ballon d’Or for 2022.
Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 matches last season for Real Madrid, who won LaLiga and the Champions League; Sadio Mane finished in second place while Kevin De Bruyne was third; Barcelona midfielder Gavi was given the Kopa Trophy as the best young player of the year.
Benzema was crowned in a ceremony in Paris ahead of Sadio Mane in second and Kevin De Bruyne in third – with the striker becoming the first French winner of the Ballon D’Or since Zinedine Zidane – who presented him the award – in 1998.
The striker is also the oldest Ballon D’Or winner since Stanley Matthews won the first edition of the prize in 1956.
“It makes me really proud,” said Benzema. “All the work I did, I never gave up. It was a childhood dream like all kids [have]. I had two motivations in my life – Zidane and Ronaldo. I’ve always had this dream in my mind that anything is possible.
“There was a difficult period where I wasn’t in the French team, but I never stopped working hard nor gave up. I always kept my head, concentrated on playing football and I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult time. It was hard for my family as well. To be here today, for the first time for me, I’m happy and pleased with my work and I keep going.
“I want to thank my team-mates, whether it’s Real Madrid or the national team. My coach, thanks to him as well. The Real Madrid president as well.
“I have a lot of people to thank. It’s an individual prize, but it’s a collective one because everyone has played a role.”
The 2022 Ballon d’Or award ceremony is finally here, with the long-awaited award of the prestigious prize upon us for yet another season, but with a twist. This will be the first time that the award is given out based on the merits of the last season of football, as opposed to the last calendar year. The Ballon d’Or award ceremony will get underway at 19:30 BST, at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Fittingly, being in the French capital, Karim Benzema is the strong favourite although he faces competition from the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe also in the mix. It will be the first time since 2005 that seven-time winner Leo Messi is not one of the candidates, while Cristiano Ronaldo is among the list but is not considered to have a chance of winning it.
The nominees parade on the red carpet at the 2022 Ballon d’Or gala
The stars are already gathering inside the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris after making their way through the red carpet. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Sadio Mane are present, as is the favourite Karim Benzema.
Karim Benzema has won the Ballon d’Or. The Frenchman played a key role in the 21/22 season, helping Real Madrid win LaLiga Santander, the Supercopa de Espana and the Champions League with his 44 goals and 15 assists.