Karim Benzema has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Ballon d'Or, after an incredible season with Real Madrid in which he won the Champions League and La Liga title.
Benzema was absolutely integral to Real's success at home and in Europe and has been the odds on favourite to be named the best player in the world, even before the shortlist for the title was revealed by France Football.
The 34-year-old beat Sadio Mane and Kevin de Bruyne into second and third, with Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Salah rounding out the top five, after the result was leaked earlier in the day.
As well as the forward's success, his teammate Thibaut Courtois was named as the best goalkeeper in the world, winning the Yashin Trophy.
La Liga players had a clean sweep of the main awards, as Gavi was named as the Kopa Trophy winner, with many annoyed that Jude Bellingham missed out, and Barcelona Women's star Alexia Putellas was named as the Ballon d'Or Feminin winner.
This year is the first time that the award was handed out for success by season, rather than calendar year, meaning the upcoming World Cup was never going to count towards the winner.
Benzema scored back-to-back hat-tricks in the Champions League last 16 and quarter finals, against PSG and Chelsea, respectively, as his side progressed through the knockout rounds.
His goals against PSG completed a second leg comeback and he scored a fourth goal of the tie vs Chelsea in extra time of the second leg to take his side through.
He then scored twice in the first leg of the semi final against Manchester City and the winning goal in extra time of the second leg, to set up the final against Liverpool.
Though Benzema didn't score in that game, his impact on earning his side their 13th European title made him the obvious choice to win the golden ball.
He finished the season with 44 goals from 46 appearances, in all competitions, overtaking Raul as the club's second all time top goalscorer, leaving only Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of him.
Last year few would have backed the former Lyon striker to win the award but late on in voting there was a push by certain former and current Real stars to claim he was deserving.
He finished fourth in voting, behind Lionel Messi, Lewandowski and Jorginho, which was his best ever finish, before Monday night.
Previous to the 2021 edition, the 34-year-old had failed to break into the top 10, and wasn't even on the shortlist in 2013 or 2016.
The award ceremony changing from the beginning of the following year to October of the current one wasn't the only change to this year's award.
Only the top 100 FIFA ranked nations voted on the winner, in the past it was all of the nations, whilst a player's past record was not considered in the criteria.
The changes came following some criticism of Messi winning his seventh Ballon d'Or last year, although he was instrumental in Argentina winning the Copa America.
This year the PSG star, who had a poor first campaign in Ligue 1, was not included on the shortlist, for the first time since 2005, whilst rival Ronaldo never really had a chance of adding to his five wins.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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