Karim Benzema wins Ballon d'Or for the first time in his career

PARIS-Karim Benzema has won the Ballon d'Or for the first time in his career.The Real Madrid striker beat the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski in the voting to claim the most prestigious individual award in men's football after a sensational 2021-22 season.

The Frenchman becomes only the second player aside from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award since 2008.

Benzema's Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric won the prize in 2018.He helped steer Real to the La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League.

Sadio Mane, who moved from Liverpool to Bayern Munich last summer, came second while Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne finished in third.

Robert Lewandowski, who was widely tipped to be one of the frontrunners for the prize, came fourth in the vote.
"There was a difficult period where I wasn't in the French team but I never stopped working hard or gave up," Benzema said on stage.

"Really proud of my journey here. It wasn't easy it was difficult. To be here today for the first time, I am happy, pleased for my work and want to keep going.

"I want to thank all my team-mates at Real Madrid and France and my coach and the Real Madrid president who is here this evening and also the support of Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon president).

"There are a lot of people to thank. It is an individual prize but still a collective one because of everyone who played a role in it."

Aged 34, Benzema is the oldest Ballon d'Or winner since Stanley Matthews in 1956. However, the France international says he has a "burning desire" to keep playing.

"Age is just a number for me, people play until their later years now and I still have this burning desire. It is this drive that has kept me going and never allowed me to let up. It kept this dream alive and was the fire behind me. I just want to make the most if it,"He said. (Agencies)

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