Karim Benzema was rewarded for his remarkable success with Real Madrid by winning the Ballon d’Or at a star-studded ceremony in Paris on Monday, while Spain’s Alexia Putellas retained the women’s prize. Benzema, who is the first French winner of the most prestigious individual award in football since Zinedine Zidane in 1998, scored 44 goals in 46 games for his club last season as Real won the Champions League and La Liga.
Fifteen of his goals came in the Champions League, including hat-tricks in knockout wins against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea and three more across both legs of a stunning semi-final defeat of Manchester City. The 34-year-old, who also won the UEFA Nations League with France, succeeds Lionel Messi with the Argentine not nominated this year after claiming the prize for the seventh time in 2021.
“The Ballon d’Or might be individual but it’s still a collective award. This is the Ballon d’Or of the people,” Benzema declared.
“Winning this trophy was always something that was in the back of my mind,” he added.
Benzema pushed Sadio Mane into second place, although the Bayern Munich and Senegal star did have his off-field work recognised as he was given a new award named after former Brazil star Socrates.
Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City was third, with Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski coming fourth.
The award was previously based on a player’s performances over the course of the calendar year. But the format has changed, with the prize now based on a player’s record over the last season.
That may have helped Putellas win the women’s award despite suffering a serious knee injury in July that saw her miss the European Championship with Spain. Instead, Putellas’s performances with Barcelona were recognised after she top-scored in the Women’s Champions League to help the Catalans reach the final, which they lost to Lyon.
The 28-year-old edged out Beth Mead, who scored six goals for the England side that won the Euro on home soil.
Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia came third.
Barcelona and Spain midfielder Gavi won the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21, while Lewandowski received the award for last season’s top goalscorer, renamed the Gerd Mueller Trophy.
Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois won the prize for best goalkeeper of the year.