Karim Benzema wins his first Ballon d'Or

Frenchman Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) won his first Ballon d’Or France Football by beating Sadio Mané and Kevin De Bruyne on Monday at the Châtelet in Paris. The Real Madrid striker is the fifth French player in history to win the prestigious trophy.

Hero in Spain and once again adored in France, Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema became the first French Ballon d’Or on Monday since Zinedine Zidane in 1998, a reward that crowns the incredible career of the best French scorer of all. time.

His 2021-2022 season was completely crazy: with 44 goals in 46 club matches, the French center-forward (34) carried Real to their 35th title in the league and was one of the heroes of the ” White House” during the successive reversals of the situation which led the Madrid team to its 14th crown in the Champions League.

And if that wasn’t enough, the French international (97 caps, 37 goals) also lifted a title with the Blues, the new League of Nations, in October 2021.

His first international trophy, a few months after his surprise return to the selection despite the “sextape” affair, which damaged his image with the general public.

In this case, Karim Benzema decided in June to give up appealing in the trial against Mathieu Valbuena, confirming his one-year suspended prison sentence for “complicity in attempted blackmail”. History to turn definitively this extra-sporting page having marked more than five years of his career.

An extraordinary talent but a bad boy image that stuck with him for a long time: it is all the ambivalence of the player trained in Lyon and originally from Bron, in the Lyon suburbs.

love and hate

Despite a licked technique, an altruistic style of play and an exceptional trophy cabinet, Benzema has long struggled to get rid of a hotheaded image, stuck between his collection of racing cars, his luxury clothes and his frequentations.

It is moreover his loyalty to his childhood friend Karim Zenati which earned him his troubles in the case of the “sextape”.

In October 2015, his police custody had the effect of a bomb. He will then be dismissed from the Blues for more than five years, unleashing passions in France, torn between the love of his supporters and the hatred that a part of the political spectrum devotes to him, especially on the far right.

His statements to Didier Deschamps, who according to him “gave in under the pressure of a racist part of France”, will haunt the coach for a long time… Until May 2021, when Deschamps decides, to everyone’s surprise , to recall his striker for the Euro.

Since then, Benzema seems fulfilled, both on the field and with the public, to whom he sends smiles, winks and thumbs up. Again on Sunday, he capsized the Santiago-Bernabéu stadium in Madrid with a goal in the clasico won 3-1 against FC Barcelona.

“The best” centre-forward, says Zidane

And this transformation coincides with the peak of his club career: since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus Turin in 2018, then Manchester United, the “Nueve” (N.9, in Spanish) has taken the reins of the club. Madrid team. Promoted to captain, he won two La Liga best player titles, in 2020 and 2022, and now has five Champions League titles to his name, one length from the record.

“For me, he’s the best” French center forward in history, judged last season his ex-coach Zinédine Zidane, the last Frenchman to have won the Ballon d’Or, 24 years ago.

The numbers speak for Benzema: with 328 goals in the white jersey, Benzema is alone in second place among Real’s most prolific strikers, behind Ronaldo and ahead of Raul, two club legends. And he has been the top French scorer in history since March 2022 with more than 400 professional goals, ahead of Thierry Henry.

His ten goals scored in the knockout phase of the Champions League in the spring, in an often stunning context against Paris SG, Chelsea then Manchester City, will also be among the highlights of his career.

After having succeeded in straightening its image, “KB9” now has the next World Cup in Qatar (November 20-December 18) in its sights. A competition he had played in 2014 (elimination in the quarters), then missed in 2018, during the coronation of the Blues in Russia.

And one of the last lines missing from his exceptional record.

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