One of Europe’s finest soccer players, Karim Benzema, a forward for Real Madrid, has won soccer’s most prestigious individual award: the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the most outstanding player for that year. Benzema won the award with a staggering 549 points, 356 points clear of second place.

Sadio Mane of Liverpool and Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City came in second and third place respectively. The 2022 Ballon d’Or was the first in history to base the award off the full season, instead of the regular calendar year. This was also the first time since 2005 that Lionel Messi, one of the most talented and recognizable players in soccer history, was not nominated. Messi was the reigning winner of the Ballon d’Or and holds the record for most wins with 7. The Argentinian was dethroned this year by Benzema who had an unbelievable season and rightly cemented himself among soccer's best. 

Karim Benzema is a French-born soccer player who started his career with Olympique Lyonnais in 2005, before transferring to Real Madrid in 2009. Benzema is currently ranked second on Real Madrid’s all time goal scoring list, falling just short to his former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Benzema along with Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and current Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, were an integral part of Real Madrid’s dominance within La Liga in the 2010s. While Benzema struggled in his first few years as part of Real Madrid’s stacked roster, the addition of a few key players helped Benzema prove his value to the club. The French phenom was often looked at as the second man during most of his tenure at Real Madrid, mainly due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s superstar status. However, after Ronaldo left Real to join Serie A side Juventus in 2018, Benzema was able to take a larger role within the Real Madrid squad. 

This past season has been quite the story for Benzema. Since longtime captain and friend Sergio Ramos bid farewell to the club and joined Paris Saint Germain, Benzema was initially named vice captain and later captain at the start of the 2021 season. During the UEFA Champions League, Benzema scored a hat trick with just under 17 minutes to play against PSG to win the match 3-1. Later on in the tournament, Benzema scored another hat trick to claim a 3-1 victory against Chelsea. As Real Madrid creeped into the semifinals, Benzema displayed his dominance as he scored an imperative penalty kick in the final minutes against tournament favorites, Manchester City. As Real Madrid advanced to the Champions League Finals facing Liverpool, the championship match-up was rather low scoring compared to the offensive dominance seen earlier in the tournament. The match ended with Madrid on top as fellow Madrid winger, Vinicius Jr., scored the game's lone goal in the 59’ minute. Regardless of his championship contributions, Benzema proved to be the most valuable player in world soccer this year, and especially in the Champions League as he scored a total of 15 goals, topping all other competitors. 

It’s surely safe to say that Benzema has proven his worth to Real Madrid. Humorously, there is a clause in Benzema’s transfer contract, signed when he left Lyon to join Madrid in 2009, that states if the striker ever won the Ballon d’Or,Madrid would have to pay a sum of money to Lyon—somewhere around the vicinity of $1 million euros. Hopefully Benzema can continue to live up to his talent and skill in the years to come, as this was without a doubt one of the best seasons that Benzema has had, and one that many players can only dream of. Karim Benzema has certainly cemented himself in the history books of soccer and as one of the all-time greats.