Karim Benzema was awarded the 2022 Ballon d’Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday after a stellar 2021-22 season saw him lead Real Madrid to a Champions League and LaLiga double.
Benzema, 34, scored a career-best 27 times in LaLiga and was top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals, including hat tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.
He finished ahead of Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, who came in second and third, respectively. PSG striker Kylian Mbappe came in sixth, while Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo was 20th.
“I’m really proud seeing this prize, it’s been my dream since I was a kid. I grew up with this in my head, and after that I had the motivation,” Benzema said.
“I had two role models in my life: Zizou [Zinedine Zidane] and [Brazil legend] Ronaldo. It’s a lot of work; I never gave up and I kept that dream in my head. Anything is possible.
“It’s been difficult for me. There was a time when I wasn’t playing for the national team, but I didn’t give up. It’s been difficult for me and that just makes me stronger mentally. I’m really happy with my work.”
The France international picked up the prize — which is awarded by the magazine France Football — for the first time in his career at a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
A day earlier, Benzema opened the scoring as Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 in El Clasico to go three points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.
He is the first Madrid player to receive the award since Luka Modric in 2018, and the first Frenchman to win since 1998 honoree Zidane, who awarded Benzema the trophy.
“I’d like to thank my teammates at Real Madrid and the national team, my president [Florentino Perez] who is like family to me, and also the Lyon academy and president [Jean Michel] Aulas, thanks to him I fulfilled my dream of playing for Real Madrid,” Benzema added.
Lionel Messi won the award in 2019 and 2021, while no Ballon d’Or was given out in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Karim Benzema won his first Ballon d’Or trophy after a fantastic 2021-22 season. Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
In 13 years at Madrid, Benzema has lifted five Champions League trophies, four LaLiga titles, two Copas del Rey, four UEFA Super Cups and four Spanish Supercopas.
Benzema received widespread recognition for his performances in the Champions League last season, scoring 10 goals in Madrid’s knockout stage wins over PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City on the way to winning the club’s 14th European Cup.
After a six-year absence from the France national team, he returned to help them win the UEFA Nations League in 2021 and is expected to lead their attack at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.