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Benzema’s long wait for Ballon d’Or

Winners, they say, never quit. Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Real Madrid FC and French striker, Karim Benzema, had to endure a long wait to realise his dream of becoming the Ballon...

Using agency reports, Gowon Akpodonor looks at Karim Benzema’s long journey to the Ballon d’Or award.

Winners, they say, never quit. Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Real Madrid FC and French striker, Karim Benzema, had to endure a long wait to realise his dream of becoming the Ballon d’Or winner. His victory on Monday night was the 12 time he was nominated, after failing on 11 occasions to clinch the prestigious award.

“To see this prize in front of me makes me really proud. It was a childhood dream for me and with all the work I have done, I never gave up,” Benzema stated after being crowned the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner at an elaborate gala night held at the Theatre Chatelet in Paris, France, on Monday.

The ceremony attended by past and present football star saw Benzema taking the top prize for the first time, finishing ahead of Senegal and Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, with Manchester City playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne in third place.

(From L) Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema receives the Ballon d’Or award next to his father Hafid Benzema from French former forward football player Zinedine Zidane during the 2022 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on October 17, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)


Benzema added: “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,” he stated.

Benzema has 12 nominations to his name. Last year, he saw his best finish in the Ballon d’Or rankings, when he finished fourth. With his win on Monday night, Benzema became the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane in 1998.

The Frenchman played a key role in the 21/22 season, helping Real Madrid win LaLiga Santander, the Supercopa de Espana and the Champions League with his 44 goals and 15 assists.

Even before he was crowned the Ballon d’Or winner on Monday night, many football fans across the globe had tipped Benzema as the best footballer on the planet.

There was celebration in Spain and his country, France, as Benzema lifted the greatest individual trophy, the Ballon d’Or, which signified his efforts for a whole year’s work.

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (L) poses with his mother Malika Benzema (C) and his father Hafid Benzema after receiving the Ballon d’Or award from French former forward football player Zinedine Zidane during the 2022 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on October 17, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)


The Ballon d’Or has had two clear dominators in recent years: Since Kaka won it in 2007, Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shared all the awards, with the exception of the one won in 2018 by Luka Modric, and the one in 2020, when due to COVID-19 pandemic, France Football strangely considered that the conditions to decide the winner were not fair.

While Lionel Messi has won the award seven times, Cristiano Ronaldo is a Ballon d’Or winner five times, one of them with Manchester United in 2008, and the rest with Real Madrid (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017). His goals helped Real Madrid to four Champions League titles.

By his feat on Monday night, Benzema, 34, becomes the oldest winner of the award since Stanley Matthews in 1956. The Englishman was the first-ever recipient of the award

Benzema will now be looking to end the year in style as he prepares for Qatar 2022 World Cup with France. However, Benzema is not the player with the highest number of nominations for the Ballon d’Or.

Manchester United and Portugal striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, has the most Ballon d’Or nominations after being nominated 19 times, including this year won by Benzema.

Ronaldo’s first nomination came back in 2004 when he was just 19. The Portuguese international first won it in 2008 and his last was in 2017.

Another player, Paolo Maldini, has 13 nominations for the Ballon d’Or.

Widely considered to be the best left-back to have ever played the game, Maldini had a very successful career with AC Milan. The 53-year-old had a career for over 20 years. Despite being nominated for the Ballon d’Or 13 times, Maldini never laid his hands on the coveted trophy, making him the player with the highest nominations to have never won the award. His best chance came in 2003 when he finished third.

Franz Beckenbauer had 12 nominations for the award.

Like Maldini, Beckenbauer is considered to be one of the greatest players ever to have played football. He is one of the three men in the world to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager.

He has won everything there is to win as a footballer, including two Ballon d’Or awards. On top of that, he was nominated for the award 12 times, the highest for any German international.

Former Dutch player, Johan Cruyff, has 12 nominations. Cruyff is one of the most revolutionary figures of modern football. His actions both as a player and a manager led to the change of identities of Ajax and FC Barcelona.

His style of football is now replicated all over the world. The Dutchman also led his country to the final of two World Cups. The former FC Barcelona forward was nominated for the Ballon d’Or 12 times and won it on three occasions. Cruyff was the first player in history to win the award three times.

Gianluigi Buffon is the goalkeeper with the most Ballon d’Or nominations (11 times). Buffon has had a long and illustrious career, spanning close to thirty years. In that period, the Italian has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or 11 times. His best finish came back in 2006 when he finished second, behind fellow Italian Fabio Cannavaro. The 44-year-old is still playing for Serie B side Parma.

Another player with 11 nominations for the Ballon d’Or is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is one of the biggest names in modern football.

Despite debuting in 1999, the Swede is still going strong as he helped AC Milan lift the Serie A title last season. The 40-year-old has had a decorated career, winning various trophies all over the world.

However, Zlatan has never won the Ballon d’Or. The forward’s best-ever chance in the Ballon d’Or was when he finished fourth back in 2013.

Thierry Henry has nine (9) nominations for the Ballon d’Or.

Henry is considered one of the greatest strikers of the 21st century. The Premier League Hall of Famer is Arsenal’s highest goalscorer, with 228 goals across all competitions.

During his stint with the Gunners, the Frenchman won two FA Cups and two Premier League titles along with a record four Premier League Golden Boot. His move to Barcelona saw him lift the Champions League in Barcelona’s trophy-laden 2008-09 season. Henry has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or nine times and the closest he came to winning it was in 2003 when he finished runners-up to Pavel Nedved.

PSG and Brazil striker, Neymar, also has nine nominations for the Ballon d’Or.

Neymar failed to make it to 10 nominations after missing out on this year’s list of nominees.

However, the Brazilian, who has already made it to that list nine times, has been a big name in the world of football since he was a teenager with Santos. Neymar’s best Ballon d’Or chance came in 2017 when he finished third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.