Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema won his first career Ballon d’Or, becoming the second oldest player to win the award at age 34 and the oldest since Englishman Stanley Matthews who won the very first Ballon d’Or in 1956 at age 41.
The Frenchman was rewarded for a magical 2021/22 season in which his team won both Spain’s La Liga and the UEFA Champions League and he finished as the top scorer in both competitions. He also won the UEFA Nations League with France.
Benzema and Real Madrid’s Ballon d’Or winners
Karim Benzema has been crowned as the top-performing player in world football in 2022.
It had been a foregone conclusion for months that Benzema would win the award as best player in the world given there was realistically no other player who came close to his achievements and trophy haul. He totaled 44 goals for Real Madrid and another six for France in 2021/22.
Despite sitting out the last few months due to an ACL tear in her left knee suffered in July, Barcelona star Alexia Putellas became the first woman to claim back-to-back Ballon d’Or trophies, fighting back tears during her acceptance speech. She admitted she didn’t think the Ballon d’Or would have been possible after missing out on the Euros with Spain. Before her injury, she won the domestic league title and led her team to the UEFA Champions League final.
Another Barcelona player took the Under-21 Player of the Year as Gavi succeeded teammate Pedri for the award crowning the best young men’s player. Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois was named goalkeeper of the Year, taking the Yashin Trophy. Robert Lewandowski won the Gerd Muller Award as the top striker for the second consecutive year after scoring 57 goals for club and country in 2021/22.
Manchester City claimed the Club of the Year award with six total Ballon d’Or finalists named, while Sadio Mane was recognized with the first Socrates Award designed to honor gestures of solidarity by players. Mane also finished second in the Ballon d’Or voting, falling just short of completing a quadruple of trophies with Liverpool in 2021/22 and leading Senegal to an Africa Cup of Nations title as well as clinching a 2022 World Cup finals berth.
In the wake of Lionel Messi’s controversial Ballon d’Or victory in 2021, the 2022 edition of the award saw organizers France Football make several changes to the voting process, including a reduction in the pool of media voters and modifications to the criteria used to judge players.
For the first time, players were judged on the European club season (August to July) and not based on the calendar year. Also, career achievements were no longer taken into consideration by the 100 media voters for the men’s award (one voter each from the top 100 nations in FIFA men’s rankings) and the 50 for the women’s trophy (top 50 nations in the FIFA women’s rankings).
Ballon d’Or awards list
There were a total of seven awards that were handed out on Monday at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris for the 66th edition of the Ballon d’Or. It was the first time that the Socrates Award was handed out. The Gerd Muller Trophy and Club of the Year were awarded for the first time in 2021.
- Men’s Ballon d’Or (Player of the Year): Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
- Women’s Ballon d’Or (Player of the Year): Alexia Putellas (Barcelona)
- Kopa Trophy (Best U-21 men’s player): Gavi (Barcelona)
- Yashin Trophy (Best men’s GK): Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
- Gerd Muller Trophy (Top scorer): Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)
- Socrates Award (for player acts of solidarity): Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich)
- Club of the Year (club with most Ballon d’Or nominees): Manchester City