2022-10-19 · 3 min read · UEFA Champions League/Soccer
Karim Benzema

AP | Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto/Reuters

Karim Benzema spent much of his career as a glittering supporting act for Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo and, more recently, Kylian Mbappé. Now, two months short of his 35th birthday, he has the trinket that marks him as a star in his own right: a Ballon d’Or.
Benzema, for months regarded as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2022 edition of the award given to the world’s best soccer player, collected his prize on Monday at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Sadio Mané, who led Senegal to victory in the Africa Cup of Nations, finished second, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne third. Benzema had described winning one as his “dream since childhood”; he has had to wait a little longer than he might have anticipated to see it come true.
Benzema was the clear choice for the “MVP” award this year. He claimed his fifth Champions League, another Spanish title — and the goals: 27 in La Liga, 15 in just a dozen games in Europe. Even those numbers do not, though, capture his impact. Benzema may not have been the decisive player in the Champions League final, an honor that fell to his teammate Vinícius Júnior, but he had unquestionably been the defining figure in Real’s journey to the final in Paris.
This is only the second time since 2008 that a player other than Messi or Ronaldo has been anointed as the best on the planet. (Benzema’s Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric was the other exception, in 2018.) It is the first time since 2006 that neither man has at least been on the podium. Ronaldo, after a disappointing year at Manchester United, finished 10th. Messi, last year’s winner, did not even make the shortlist.
Benzema will be 35 in December. His has been a glorious autumn, but it is an autumn nonetheless. The future lies with the other names on the list, with Erling Haaland and Mbappé and Phil Foden and Vinicíus. Their time will come, and soon. For now, though, today belongs, at last, to Benzema.
As for the other awards on the night - Barcelona midfielder Gavi was named the winner of the Kopa trophy, awarded to the best player under the age of 21, with England duo Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka finishing in fourth and eighth position respectively.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was given the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper prize, after his man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final, against Liverpool, won the Spanish giants the most coveted club prize in European football.
The women's award went to Barcelona star Alexia Putellas, who pipped runner-up Beth Mead of England to the prize after guiding the Catalan club to the Spanish title with a 100 per cent points tally.
Manchester City were named Club of the Year at the Paris ceremony after winning their fourth Premier League title in five seasons, beating runners-up Liverpool and Real Madrid to the prize.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Aaron Cantin


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