Soccer is a team game, but it is made up by some big personalities. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the game for over a decade, winning the Ballon d’Or, awarded annually to the player who played best in Europe.
Messi, the latest winner after leading Argentina to the Copa America last summer, has been awarded the prize seven times, while Ronaldo has earned it five. Both players rank one and two, respectively, on the list of all-time winners.
There could very well be a new winner in 2022 and that’s Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 28, 2022
In March, it was announced that the prestigious individual award changed how it would be awarded going. Instead of the award’s criteria judging a player’s personal and team achievements over the course of a calendar year, the Ballon d’Or will only judge a player over the course of a typical club season.
If that’s the case, then Benzema is hands down the winner, no matter what Real Madrid does in the Champions League this spring.
The 34-year-old Benzema has scored 41 goals in as many matches across all competitions this season. He is also the top scorer in the Champions League with 14 goals in 10 games as Real Madrid has reached the semifinals with a shot at this year’s final.
Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Bayern Munch’s Robert Lewandowski are certainly in the running for the award, especially should the Egyptian striker lead the English club to the UCL title.
Will Karim Benzema’s off-field issues affect his vote totals?
Last year, Benzema was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail a fellow French player with a sex tape. A judge handed Benzema a one-year suspended jail sentence and ordered him to pay a $84,000 fine. He was one of five people put on trial over an attempt to extort Frenchman Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema’s exploits have been noticed across the planet. Writing in The Guardian, Barney Ronay observed:
The talk now will be about the Ballon d’Or, because football tends towards individual glory. But also because it’s so obvious that Benzema should win it. He is on a run of 17 goals in 12 games. He has 46 in 48 for the season, 13 assists and another league title in the barrel, all the while reeling off outrageous displays of will and edge at the sharp end of things.
The Ballon d’Or is awarded in October. There isn’t time for anyone else to approach this level. If convicted attempted blackmail go-betweens are allowed to win the big awards – and before we clutch our pearls too closely this is a sport whose global body has anointed Vladimir Putin as a force for world peace – then it looks like a wrap.
I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. It will be interesting to see what happens and whether his off-the-field issues will have an impact on the voting.
Having said that, here’s what goes into awarding the prize, as Jose Felix Diaz, writing for Marca, the Spanish sport daily, noted:
The Frenchman is widely viewed as the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or due to his numbers in Spain and Europe. Only journalists from the first hundred countries in the FIFA rankings will vote this year and individual performance will be taken into account, followed by the collective achievements, as well as sportsmanship.
Benzema deserves the award, no matter whether Los Blancos can capture the Champions League, just because of how he’s played this season and the numbers he has put up. The Ballon d’Or, unfortunately, hasn’t always been given to the player who deserved it.
There really isn’t anyone even close to deserving the prize this year. Let’s just give Benzema the award now.