The Frenchman, 34, has been the standout performer in the Champions League this season and took his tally to 14 goals in 10 games by scoring twice – including a breathtaking Panenka – in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City on Tuesday night. He is growing even more prolific at this advanced stage of his career and has scored a total of 41 times in 41 appearances.
As well as his double in Real Madrid’s pulsating 4-3 defeat at City, he netted four times across two quarter-final legs with Chelsea and scored a memorable hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Consequently, it is no surprise to see Benzema at the top of the bookmakers’ markets to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, especially as two footballing icons have endorsed his bid.
“Karim deserves the Ballon d’Or,” Ronaldo – who won the coveted individual accolade in 1997 and 2002 – told Sky Sport Italia in mid-April. “I’ve been saying it for years and they’ve criticised me but he deserves it. He’s a great striker.” Echoing the Brazil legend, Ozil took to Twitter in the wake of the first leg against City.
He wrote: “What a fantastic game. Give my boy Benzi the Ballon d’Or.” Ozil and Benzema were teammates at the Santiago Bernabeu for three years between 2010 and 2013, winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey together.
Los Blancos are on course for another top-flight title this season and will be crowned Spanish champions for the 35th time in their history if they defeat Espanyol on Saturday. Benzema is the top scorer in the division with 25 goals in 29 games, with 11 assists to boot.
Does Karim Benzema deserve to win the Ballon d’Or? Have your say in the comments!
His main competition for the 2022 Ballon d’Or appears to be Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who leads the scoring charts in the Premier League with 22 goals and 13 assists in 31 appearances. City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is also enjoying a brilliant season and opened the scoring with an immaculate diving header during the first leg against Real Madrid.
The Belgian then turned provider to set up Gabriel Jesus to score the hosts’ second, giving them a dream start at the Etihad. De Bruyne and Benzema will lock horns again at the Bernabeu next week while Salah is in action against Villarreal on Wednesday night in the other semi-final.