Ballon d'Or

Karim Benzema is the clear favorite to win the men’s Ballon d’Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, becoming the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane over a quarter-century ago.

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There are 30 nominees, but the Real Madrid striker is the standout candidate after his superb efforts last season helped his club win the Champions League and LaLiga.

Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 games for his club, including 15 in the Champions League.

His heroics included a hat-trick in 17 second-half minutes against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, and another away to Chelsea in the first leg of the quarterfinals. He also scored three more goals in both legs of the semifinal against Manchester City.

Benzema was voted Uefa player of the year in August, and he is enjoying a fantastic twilight to his career with the World Cup just around the corner.

Formerly a pariah who was barred from playing for France for five and a half years due to his involvement in a blackmail scandal involving teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has put that behind him and is playing the best football of his career as his 35th birthday approaches the day after the World Cup final.

“The most important thing to me is to win group awards. Individual prizes will be bestowed upon you if you perform well on the field “As Benzema just stated.

His triumph at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris appears to be a foregone conclusion.

“If they don’t cancel it, he’s probably going to win the Ballon d’Or,” Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski remarked this week.

That was a joke by the Pole, who would have been crowned in 2020 if the prize hadn’t been canceled owing to the pandemic.

NO MESSI

Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or for the eighth time last year, but he isn’t even nominated this year following a poor season at Paris Saint-Germain.

Cristiano Ronaldo is nominated, but there is no mention of Neymar.

Aside from Benzema, there are four other members of Real’s Champions League-winning squad: Vinicius, the evergreen Luka Modric, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and Casemiro, currently of Manchester United.

Benzema is joined by Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Lewandowski, and Kevin De Bruyne.

If Benzema wins, he will be the fifth Frenchman to do so, following Raymond Kopa in 1958, Michel Platini (1983, 1984, 1985), Jean-Pierre Papin (1991), and Zinedine Zidane (1998).

Previously, the award was based on a player’s performance throughout the course of a calendar year.

However, the format has altered, with the award being dependent on a player’s record throughout the previous season.

Ballon d'Or
Benzema expected to win Ballon d’Or

PUTELLAS TO KEEP WOMEN’S AWARD?

The identity of the fourth women’s Ballon d’Or winner is significantly less certain.

Three members of England’s European Championship-winning squad are among the 20 contenders.

Lucy Bronze and Millie Bright were both named, but Arsenal striker Beth Mead is the most likely possibility after scoring six goals at the Euros.

Australia’s Sam Kerr and German combo Lena Oberdorf and Alexandra Popp may also be contenders, but the winner could be Spain’s Alexia Putellas, who won last year.

The 28-year-old is presently rehabilitating from a major knee injury that caused her to miss Spain’s Euro and means she is unlikely to play this season.

Putellas, who won a year ago after Ada Hegerberg and Megan Rapinoe, led Barcelona to the Champions League final as well as a domestic league and cup double.

She led the Champions League in scoring with 11 goals, but her club lost in the final against Lyon.

The victors will also earn digital tokens (NFTs) in addition to their sparkling trophies, and organizers France Football magazine have introduced a new humanitarian prize.

It is named after Socrates, a former Brazilian player who also had a medical degree.

According to France Football, the trophy “will distinguish the finest social effort by committed champions.”

More news: Brazil’s Neymar forced onto back foot

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