By: Gyang Dakwo
Real Madrid’s France forward Karim Benzema won the 2022 Ballon d’Or award for the best men’s player in the world on Monday, while Barcelona’s Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas won the women’s award for a second time.
Benzema, who played a pivotal role in Real’s run to the Champions League title last season, is the first French player to win the trophy since Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and the fifth after Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Jean-Pierre Papin.
The striker had a stellar season with Real, scoring 44 goals in 46 games in all competitions as he helped guide them to a LaLiga and Champions League double. His 15 goals in the Champions League guided Real to a record-extending 14th title.
“This prize in front of me makes me really proud. When I was small, it was a childhood dream, I never gave up… Anything is possible,” Benzema said on stage at the ceremony.
“There was a difficult period when I wasn’t in the French team but I never gave up. I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult time for my family as well.”
Benzema beat Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Sadio Mane of Senegal, and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne among others to clinch the award.
Also, Spanish international Alexia Putellas won the women’s Ballon d’Or for a second straight year.
With the award, Putellas made history as the first women’s player to become a back-to-back winner of the prize.
“Without my teammates, this would not have been possible,” said Putellas after picking up the award. “I want to thank the staff and the coach and everyone involved at Barcelona.
“I’m very happy to be back here and pleased because a year ago I was able to win this prize and it pushed me to want to be even better.”
Putellas suffered a long-term injury earlier this year which ruled her out of the European Championship and is still out of action.
England’s Beth Mead was the runner-up for the award after guiding the Lionesses to the European Championships title, with Chelsea’s Sam Kerr having to settle for third.