Karim Benzema wins Ballon d’Or for first time after stellar Real Madrid year

Karim Benzema has claimed the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career after a sensational season that saw him claim LaLiga and Champions League glory with Real Madrid.

Karim Benzema has won the Ballon d’Or for the first time after leading Real Madrid to a sensational double.

The Frenchman was the standout performer for Los Blancos as they won LaLiga and claimed another Champions League crown. Benzema scored 44 times – the highest single season tally of his career – as he continues to blossom at the age of 34, becoming just the fifth man from his country to win the prestigious accolade.

He is the first Frenchman to claim the award since Zinedine Zidane’s success back in 1998. The former Lyon man, who signed for Madrid in 2009, had for much of his career played second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo, but has flourished as his side’s main man in recent years.

Upon claiming the award Benzema said: “This prize in front of me, makes me really proud. When I was young, I never gave up, it was a childhood dream. I had the motivation, I had two role models in my life in Zidane and Ronaldo. I had always had this dream that everything is possible. There was a period where I wasn’t in the French team but I never stopped working, I’m really proud of my journey here and it was not easy.

“It was also a difficult time for my family, to be here, my first time, I’m happy and I’m going to keep going. I want to thank all my teammates at Real Madrid and the national team, my coach, the Real Madrid president. I always had the support from Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon president). The Ballon d’Or is an individual prize but it is still a collective one for everyone who’s helped me win it.”

Domestically he scored 27 times as Madrid won the Spanish title at a canter, but it was in Europe that he produced his best performances as he dragged Madrid into the final where they beat Liverpool 1-0 at Stade de France.

Los Blancos comfortably negotiated their group and had to overcome PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City to reach the final in Paris. Madrid made a habit of coming back from the brink throughout the knockout stages and it was often Benzema who hauled them over the line. Against PSG, Benzema scored a 17-minute hat-trick to see off the French side 3-2 on aggregate.

In the last eight, Benzema backed up his PSG hat-trick with another treble at Stamford Bridge – becoming just the fourth man to score three times in successive games – as he set Madrid on their way to a 5-4 triumph which they secured in extra-time, with the Frenchman scoring the decisive goal. He did likewise against hot favourites City, notching the semi-final winner from the spot having also netted at the Etihad.

Benzema’s Champions League exploits saw him become the oldest player in the competition’s history to score a treble. He didn’t find the net in the final against Liverpool, but victory was the fifth time he had won the competition in his career.

Ancelotti said after Saturday’s ‘El Clasico’ win that he was backing his forward for the Ballon d’Or, insisting it would represent a team success. The Italian manager said: “Hopefully he can win the Ballon d’Or and we are going to congratulate him because a little bit of that Ballon is also ours.”

Benzema came fourth in last year’s Ballon d’Or, but has improved notably and becomes the eighth man to claim the Golden Ball whilst playing for Real. Their most recent winner prior to tonight was Luka Modric but the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro and Alfredo Di Stefano have also been handed the individual accolade.

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