Karim Benzema became the first Frenchman since 1998 to claim the Ballon d’Or following a scintillating year with Real Madrid.
The 34-year-old took the top prize for the first time, finishing ahead of Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne in third place.
Benzema helped Los Blancos win the Champions League, defeating Liverpool in the final. The player also claimed his fourth La Liga crown, fourth Supercopa de Espana title and a fourth UEFA Super Cup triumph.
“To see this prize in front of me makes me really proud. It was a childhood dream for me and all the work I have done, I never gave up,” he said after collecting the 2022 Ballon d’Or.
“I always had in my mind that anything was possible, when I was not in the France team I never stopped working hard.
“I am really proud of my journey here. It was not easy, it was a difficult time and also for my family as well.
“To be standing here today for the first time, I am happy for my work and will keep going.”
Robert Lewandowski, who joined Barcelona from Bayern Munich during the summer, was fourth. The Pole finished second in 2021 behind Lionel Messi.
Lewandowski was also the favourite to win the France Football award in 2020. However, the striker missed out after the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah finished fifth while PSG forward Kylian Mbappe ended up in sixth. Norway forward Erling Haaland finished in 10th. The Manchester City star enjoyed a superb start to the season, scoring 20 goals so far.
Benzema scored a career-high 44 goals across 46 games in all competitions during the 2021/22 season. He will now be looking to end the year in style as he prepares for the World Cup with France.
The last Frenchman to claim the Ballon d’Or was Zinedine Zidane back in 1998. That same year, the former Real Madrid manager also won the World Cup with Les Bleus.
Zidane presented the award and featured in a video montage praising the winner. Current Real boss Carlo Ancelotti and former Los Blancos chief Jose Mourinho also featured in the video package.
Benzema is also the oldest winner of the award since Stanley Matthews in 1956. The Englishman was the first ever recipient of the award.
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